Ravens safeties Christian Thompson and Omar Brown were stretching after a recent practice when Thompson realized that they might be asked to play the entire preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night.
"We were just joking about it while we were stretching," Thompson said. "We were saying, 'We've got to get ready,' because that includes special teams. So it could be a long four quarters on Thursday. But if that's how it's going to play out, we've just got to prepare and make the most of our opportunities."
Added Brown: "It kind of hit me today, and that's why we were doing a little bit of extra running after practice."
Thompson and Brown might be pressed into lengthier duty because of a sudden lack of depth in the safety corps. With starters Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard not expected to play and backups Emanuel Cook and Sean Considine dealing with injuries, the position is left with just three rookies in Thompson, Brown and Cyhl Quarles.
The team could have addressed the issue by delving into the free-agent market, but coach John Harbaugh said he didn't think it was necessary.
"I think we have enough safeties," he said. "… We are comfortable with the guys we have."
For now, it would appear that Thompson, a strong safety, and Brown, a free safety, are in line to start against the Rams.
The 6-foot, 211-pound Thompson is the second of two fourth-round picks taken by the team in April's NFL draft. He has made five tackles and forced a fumble that Brown recovered in the Ravens' preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 9.
Thompson, 22, is getting acclimated to the pace at which players in the NFL are expected to absorb schemes and the playbook, but said he is eager to prove that he can cause turnovers.
"I just want to get my hands on the ball," he said. "Everybody is saying that I can hit, but I just want to show them that I've got a little finesse in my game."
Brown has enjoyed a more impressive preseason than his more-heralded teammate despite going undrafted more than four months ago.
The 5-11, 195-pound Brown has recovered all three of the team's fumbles and is just one of two players with an interception thus far. (Inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is the other.)
Brown, 24, said he has been pleased by his performances, but said he doesn't want to slip into being content.
"I just want to stay consistent," he said. "I've been doing well this preseason, but I just want to keep doing what I've been doing. I just want to keep getting better out there, minimize my mistakes. I'm just looking to go out there and play hard."
Thompson and Brown figure to get plenty of time to further create an impression with the coaching staff because of the injuries to Cook and Considine. On Monday, Cook was placed on injured reserve, ending his season after he broke his right leg while running down on kick coverage in the third quarter of Thursday night's 48-17 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Considine suffered a concussion in that same game – his second in as many weeks – and has not participated in the three days of practice between the Jaguars and Rams games.
Thompson said he doesn't view their absence as a concern for him and Brown.
"I don't really think it's pressure," he said. "I just see it as another opportunity for us to play a little more. We're coming in as young guys, and they don't really expect a lot out of us but to know what we're doing and give a lot of effort. … It's just another opportunity for the young guys to come in and show the veterans what we've got."
Brown said he's hopeful that he and Thompson will get a chance to play the entire contest.
"I wouldn't have a problem with it," Brown said. "If that's what they want me to do, that's what I'll do. … It's a privilege to be out there, to play a whole NFL game. I really want to go out there and work hard and – tired or not – I want to give it my all."