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Ravens’ practice squad could be ’more important than ever’; rookie OL Tyre Phillips’ versatility stands out

Even if the Ravens don’t keep an undrafted rookie on their season-opening roster Saturday for the 17th straight year, a few will land on their expanded 16-man practice squad this weekend.

With the coronavirus pandemic expected to test teams’ depth this fall, coach John Harbaugh equated being on the practice squad to making the 53-man roster.

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“This year, I think something to really bear in mind is that practice squad is probably just going to be as important or more important than ever,” he said in a video conference call Wednesday. “I think most teams are going to really want to hold on to their guys for their practice squad because they know the system. They’re kind of schooled up now on the offense and defense, and you have to assume that there’s a possibility that those guys will have to be playing any given week.”

Four practice squad players can be protected starting Tuesday afternoon during the regular season, meaning the Ravens and other teams can keep up to 57 players each week, rather than 53. With the lengthy COVID-19 testing process required for free agents, teams will likely look to promote from within to fill roster holes.

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Phillips, Skura impress

In his first preseason as an interior lineman, third-round pick Tyre Phillips has impressed. The former Mississippi State left tackle is battling free-agent signing D.J. Fluker for the Ravens’ starting right job spot.

“He’s done a good job,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a good football player. I think that’s the main thing. We saw the ability to play guard or tackle. I think he can play on the right side or the left side.

“He’s just really kind of a versatile type of player. He’s a good athlete. He bends well. Smart, very smart. He comes from a great family. Got a really good demeanor about him. He doesn’t get down on himself at all. He really just pushes through it and learns from his mistakes, so all those things probably contribute. I think we have a versatile offensive line, too.”

Harbaugh also said center Matt Skura had no “hiccups” or “issues” with his extensive action in Saturday’s scrimmage at M&T Bank Stadium, but he declined to speculate on whether he’d be ready for Week 1. Skura suffered a season-ending knee injury in November and has steadily increased his workload in training camp.

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“We have more practices, so we’ll keep looking at that,” Harbaugh said. “He did well. ... We’re just going to keep pushing forward with some more challenging things each day, and we’ll know by next week where he’s at. Really, Matt’ll know where he’s at, as much as anything. He’s the guy who’s in that body.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens have a sense for who will start along the offensive line in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, “but I wouldn’t say we’re 100% there yet.”

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