Ravens' Mitchell moves to Jaguars

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Nate Bolling knows that being the NFL sack leader in preseason doesn't necessarily make him a front-runner.

Ovie Mughelli realizes being a fourth-round pick doesn't guarantee him a spot.

And Anthony Mitchell understands that wearing a 200-diamond Super Bowl ring doesn't carry any weight toward making this year's team.

The Ravens traded safety Mitchell to the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday for a conditional draft pick in 2004 (probably either a sixth- or seventh-round pick based on playing time), taking one of the players on the bubble out of the picture.

Known for returning a blocked field goal 90 yards for a playoff touchdown in the team's run to the Super Bowl championship in the 2000 season, Mitchell officially became part of the Ravens' past, and the veteran safety's departure further clears up the roster picture.

Now, with 12 players vying for five remaining spots, tomorrow's preseason finale against the New York Giants represents their last shot to extend their NFL careers. The Ravens appear set on as many as 48 of the 53 players and will make their final major cutdown on Saturday.

"That last half of the game gets to be an all-out war," coach Brian Billick said. "We're looking for someone to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack."

Bolling, a backup defensive end, is familiar with the drill this time of year.

Last season, he made the 53-man roster on the last day of major cuts as an undrafted rookie, only to be released five days later. By Week 2, he was signed to the practice squad.

"I learned last year, don't crunch numbers," Bolling said. "If you're a ballplayer, they'll find a way to keep you around. Last year, I was trying to play general manager and see who's going where. Now, I have no idea what's going to happen [with the final cuts] on Saturday."

Bolling's play in the first three preseason games has certainly helped his cause.

He tops the NFL with five sacks and is third on the Ravens with 10 tackles. With five defensive linemen already locked in, Bolling has likely surpassed veterans Riddick Parker and Joe Salave'a for one of the final spots. The team also likes the potential of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin but is unsure whether he's ready to play as a rookie.

"I feel I've proven to them through the first three games that I'm worthy of being on this team, helping out in the supporting role and then establishing a more prominent role in the future," Bolling said.

Mughelli has history - if not the numbers - on his side. In their eight seasons, the Ravens have not cut a draft pick higher than the fifth round as a rookie.

But Mughelli is probably battling the odds. The Ravens will likely keep two out of a six-player group - Mughelli, receiver Marc Lester, linebackers Johnny Rutledge and Chris Brown and cornerbacks Alvin Porter and Ray Walls - based on how they play on special teams.

"Special teams is a huge part," said Mughelli, who has two tackles on the coverage teams. "The more you can do, the better chance you have of staying on this team."

Flexibility is one of the keys for the Ravens.

They may be able to keep one fewer defensive lineman because outside linebacker Adalius Thomas could move up in a pinch. They may be able to carry one fewer cornerback because free safety Gary Baxter started at cornerback last season.

The versatility extends to the offensive line, where Damion Cook has primarily played at guard this preseason, but has experience at tackle. Cook should be one of the last offensive linemen to make the cut.

Trying to analyze who's in and who's on the bubble can be nerve-racking, even for a three-year veteran like Porter.

"It's not something you get used to," Porter said. "Being that you're fighting for your job, it's something that you keep on your mind."

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent: New York Giants

Site: M&T; Bank Stadium

Time: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 4

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