Already feeling the effects of outside linebacker Peter Boulware's shoulder injury, the Ravens waived two players yesterday, including third-year middle linebacker Tyrus McCloud.
The Ravens were involved in serious trade talks about McCloud with three teams until the 4 p.m. deadline imposed by the NFL to reduce the roster to the mandatory limit of 53 players. The Ravens were also involved in some inquiries about possibly trading reserve quarterback Tony Banks, who might lose his No. 2 job to Stoney Case.
Ravens coach Brian Billick also announced yesterday that Everett Lindsay would start at left guard instead of James Atkins against the St. Louis Rams in Sunday's season opener and that Boulware could become the team's third-down pass rushing specialist. Linebacker and special teams player Jeff Kopp was the other player released by the Ravens yesterday.
Boulware slightly re-injured his right shoulder in Friday's 28-24 win over the New York Giants after only 16 snaps, and the Ravens will probably have to use him sparingly for the regular season.
The Ravens have seriously discussed plans about using Boulware only on passing situations and having third-year linebacker Cornell Brown as the strong-side linebacker in running situations. Brown played well when Boulware missed three preseason games and had 11 tackles in four preseason games.
With Brown getting additional playing time, the Ravens were left short on outside linebackers if Brown or Boulware went down with an injury. The Ravens decided to keep first-year outside linebacker Brad Jackson (6 feet, 230 pounds), who had been on the bubble, and cut McCloud, who had performed extremely well in preseason with 16 tackles, tied for second on the team behind middle linebacker Ray Lewis' 20.
The move is somewhat of a gamble because of Lewis' reckless style. Lewis has missed four games in three seasons due to injury and McCoud always plays well in his absence.
If Boulware weren't hurt, then McCloud might still be on the roster.
"Yes, I thought he played great," Lewis said of McCloud's preseason. "And yeah, I'm a little surprised. But you don't always know the reasons behind the reason."
It was no secret that McCloud, who was not available for comment yesterday, did not like playing on special teams, even though he wasn't a starter. According to a league official, that's the primary reason the team was unable to trade him yesterday.
The Ravens will move third-year linebacker Tyrell Peters (6-0, 235) from the outside to No. 2 behind Lewis in the middle, where Peters has yet to take a snap. The Ravens' coaching staff rated both Peters and Jackson better athletes than McCloud, who reported to training camp this summer 15 pounds lighter.
"Any of the players we kept gave us the best athletes and the best depth at that position," Billick said. "The players on our roster either have the potential to be better or give us flexibility right now."
Banks completed nine of 16 passes for 96 yards against the Giants on Friday, but several of his passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Case completed 12 of 21 for 196 yards and had two touchdown passes, including a 37-yarder to Brandon Stokley as time expired to pull out the victory. Case performed similar heroics the week before in a 28-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The Ravens like Banks' arm strength but would like for him to play more within the framework of the offense. A team source said the Ravens felt Case had played well enough to at least receive strong consideration from Billick to be No. 2, and said the team would trade Banks only if it could get a third-round pick or higher selection.
The Ravens traded for Banks on April 17, with St. Louis giving up a fifth-round pick in the 1999 draft and a seventh-round choice in 2000. Neither Billick nor Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, had much to say about Banks' situation.
"People see us as having three quarterbacks, and I guess conversations about a trade will heat up, especially if there are injuries," Newsome said.
Atkins has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury but probably would have been replaced by Lindsay, who has played well and has more athletic ability. The Ravens like Lindsay's versatility. He has played every position on the offensive line since he was a fifth-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 1993.
"I don't know if James will be ready, so I'm going with Everett," Billick said. "Anything beyond that would be moot at this point."
The Ravens signed Kopp last October after he was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was tied for sixth on the team with seven special teams tackles last year. The fifth-year player had one special teams tackle in the preseason.
Pub Date: 9/06/99