Team cuts 12, eyes Boulware exemption Britton, Mitchell, Isaia go on IR; team will search for offensive line help

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Ravens released 12 players from their roster yesterday to prepare for the first of two league-mandated cuts today.

Every NFL team must trim its roster to 60 players by 4 p.m. today and then to 53 by Sunday -- the final cut -- also at 4 p.m.

In addition to the cuts, the Ravens placed three players on injured reserve before the start of yesterday's practice. The Ravens will cut one or two more players by 4 p.m. today.

The Ravens are examining whether they can make top draft pick Peter Boulware a roster exemption when he signs. In that case, they will only have to cut one player today. Boulware signed his contract last night, said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel.

"We may be able to get a roster exemption for Peter," Newsome said. "We won't know until he signs."

The Ravens can request an exemption once he signs, at which time the league will grant or deny the request.

"It [the exemption] is only good until he plays, and he'll play Friday [against the Buffalo Bills at Memorial Stadium]," Newsome said.

There were no real surprises among the players released: linebackers Rusty Arrington (rookie free agent) and Shawn Banks (rookie free agent); center Matt Cravens; defensive end Mike Ivey (rookie free agent); tight end Bill Khayat (rookie free agent); cornerback Verone McKinley (rookie free agent); offensive linemen Craig Novitsky and Kireem Swinton; second-year quarterback Scott Otis; wide receiver Shawn Ward (rookie free agent), and defensive backs Jermaine Trent (rookie free agent) and Michael Wright.

Wide receiver Eddie Britton (shoulder), offensive lineman Sale Isaia (knee) and center Jeff Mitchell (knee) were placed on injured reserve, meaning all three are out for the season.

The Ravens brought in Cravens and Novitsky on July 22 and Aug. 5, respectively, to add some bulk to the depleted offensive line.

Ward, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound receiver out of Towson State, was a numbers casualty. As of yesterday, the Ravens had retained eight receivers, although coach Ted Marchibroda has said that the club ultimately will keep six at the most.

Now that the first cut has been made across the league, an array of free agents and veterans is available. The list of players is available over a waiver wire that Newsome said became available last night.

Newsome said that the Ravens are most interested in finding versatile offensive linemen, a veteran linebacker and possibly a cornerback. The Ravens are thin on the offensive line because of major injuries -- two season-ending -- to top reserves. And the linebacking corps consists of rookies except for second-year player Ray Lewis.

Newsome said that the Ravens will not overlook help in other areas if a player were made available.

"If someone is out there that we like or will be a valuable veteran and is better than what we have, we would consider claiming [him]," Newsome said.

Newsome said that the Ravens will use a full, five-player practice roster after the second cut.

Richardson is No. 3

Rookie quarterback Wally Richardson and second-year player Otis were fighting for the third quarterback spot. Yesterday, Richardson won the battle.

Throughout training camp, the Ravens coaching staff said that the team planned to keep just three. Vinny Testaverde and Eric Zeier had locks on the first two spots, so Otis and Richardson needed to fight for No. 3.

"Both worked hard, both are sharp guys," quarterbacks coach Don Strock said. "If it was up to me, I would have kept them both. It's a little greed on my part."

Before the Ravens' second preseason game against the New York Jets, Marchibroda said that Otis would see his first NFL action against the Jets and Richardson would play against the Philadelphia Eagles.

But close scores in both games prevented Otis and Richardson from playing.

"Usually, guys do play in preseason games," Richardson said. "That's how coaches usually evaluate. I guess that wasn't the case here. I'm just happy it was me."

Testaverde said he was not surprised that Richardson beat out Otis, the No. 3 quarterback last season. Otis was a free agent. Richardson was drafted in the seventh round. Otis also would have made more money than Richardson this season.

"Scott is a real intelligent kid," Testaverde said. "He has improved a great deal since working with Don Strock. I'm sorry to see him go, but some team will pick him up."

Running grounded

The Ravens' ground game struggled against the Eagles on Saturday night, amassing just 41 yards on 19 carries.

Running backs Earnest Byner and Priest Holmes, fullback Kenyon Cotton and backup quarterback Zeier each carried the ball, but all four averaged 4 or fewer yards a carry.

And Byner, the Ravens' veteran back, carried eight times for 9 yards for an average of 1.1 yards a carry.

"We've got to be successful," Byner said. "I guess the running game has to catch up with other stuff."

The offensive line has been depleted due to injuries. Starting center Wally Williams is out until mid-October and Mitchell and Isaia are out for the season with knee injuries.

"With the guys we have now, we have to produce in some way," Byner said. "Wally is out and others are gone, but we've got guys here who are able to run block and protect Vinny."

The loss of veteran running back Bam Morris for the first four games of the season also hurts the running game.

"It's a concern, but it's a reality," assistant head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We got a couple of guys who can carry the ball. We just have to get better fundamentally, get our timing down."

Protection for Green

Tight end Eric Green did not play in the past two preseason games to protect his knee from the artificial turf of Giants Stadium and Veterans Stadium.

Green had two arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee in the past 15 months. He said he is healed but did not play on the turf to rest the knee until the regular season begins.

He said a decision was reached during the off-season to rest him during any preseason games played on artificial turf.

"That was an off-season decision. It wasn't my decision; it was a coaching decision," Green said. "I'm just a soldier."

Green said that he "definitely" will play against the Bills on Friday night.

"I'm just eager to get back in there," he said.

Ravens roll call

Quentin Neujahr

Pos.: Offensive lineman

Height: 6-4

Weight: 305

Age: 26

Season: Third

Highlights: Signed as a free agent with Browns in 1995. First NFL action came on special teams. Four-year letterman at Kansas State, who started every game since freshman season at center. Raises 140 head of cattle in Liberty, Neb.

Favorite food: T-bone steak

Favorite movie: "Vision Quest"

Favorite TV shows: "M*A*S*H," "Cheers"

Best about Baltimore: The fans

Pub Date: 8/19/97

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