The Ravens dug further into the process of reducing their roster by cutting five players Friday.
However, the heaviest lifting commences today when the Ravens have to get down to a maximum of 53 players. That will require more challenging decisions than this latest round of subtractions.
None of the Ravens' transactions Friday were surprising as center Reggie Stephens, outside linebacker D.J. Roberts, tight end Nathan Overbay and defensive linemen Levi Brown and Derrick Hopkins were released. A former Virginia Tech standout, Hopkins, got the highest signing bonus — $10,000 — among the Ravens' undrafted rookies. A 2010 Cincinnati Bengals seventh-round draft pick, Stephens was on the Ravens' practice squad last season.
The Ravens also informed undrafted rookie defensive tackle A.J. Pataiali'i that he'll be released and they hope to sign him to their practice squad once he clears waivers, according to a source.
The Ravens are now at 70 players, but will only have to cut 15 players to get down to the limit because running back Ray Rice (two-game personal conduct policy suspension ) and safety Will Hill (six-game substance-abuse policy suspension) will soon be placed on the reserve-suspended list.
Meanwhile, nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery) can be placed on the reserve-physically unable to perform list. Under that scenario, Cody would be required to miss the first six games. Rice, Hill and Cody won't count against the active roster once those transactions are processed.
One of the Ravens' internal debates is whether to keep three quarterbacks or two on the regular-season roster along with how many wide receivers and cornerbacks to keep. The Ravens also are actively monitoring the waiver wire and remain receptive to trades to try to upgrade the back end of the roster or acquire quality cornerback depth due to injuries to top cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest contusion), Lardarius Webb (lower back) and Asa Jackson (sprained ankle).
The Ravens have to decide if they'll keep or cut rookie quarterback Keith Wenning and then try to sign the sixth-round draft pick to their practice squad. Should the Ravens release Wenning, there's a good chance that he'll wind up on another NFL team's roster as the third quarterback.
A two-time team captain at Ball State, Wenning said he wants to sign with the Ravens' practice squad if he's cut.
"It's a decision they'll make," Wenning said. "I'm comfortable here. It's something they'll decide in the future. It's not my decision and it's out of my control."
Meanwhile, the Ravens have to decide which cornerbacks and safeties they're keeping.
They're in a bind in the secondary due to injuries and some ineffective play at times from their reserves during the preseason..
The wide receiver decisions are also challenging. The Ravens are expected to retain only six wide receivers, including starters Steve Smith and Torrey Smith and backups Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro (River Hill). The sixth spot is considered more likely to go to Deonte Thompson than Kamar Aiken after Thompson scored three touchdowns in the past three preseason games, including a 108-yard kickoff return against the Cowboys.
"I thought the young guys did a really good job," said Steve Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. "It was very competitive. I think they showed if they're not here, which I think will be a tough decision, then they've interviewed for a job somewhere else. I think they can all play in this league."
In the final preseason game Thursday against New Orleans, Thompson caught a touchdown pass, Campanaro caught three passes for 55 yards and returned punts and kickoffs and Aiken led the Ravens with four receptions for 57 yards.
"Nobody's making it easy for us, are they," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "These are a bunch of guys that are going to play in the NFL for a long time. You get a chance to see those guys chase their dream. As a coach, that's so fulfilling."
In four preseason games, Aiken caught eight passes for 103 yards.
"Our job was to make it tough on them," Aiken said. "Hopefully, it's in my favor."
With previous stints on the Ravens' practice squad as well as practice squads with the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears, Aiken has exhausted his eligibility for the practice squad.
"I'm done with that," Aiken said. "It's all or nothing."
A Clarksville native, Campanaro finished the preseason with five receptions for 79 yards while displaying sound hands and a strong knowledge of the playbook.
"I feel like I had a strong training camp." Campanaro said. "I had some good games in the preseason. I hope I'm here playing for the Ravens."
Ravens Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been fined $8,268 by the NFL for kicking Washington Redskins offensive guard Shawn Lauvao, according to a league spokesman.
Although Ngata wasn't penalized on the play, the fine is for unnecessary roughness. Ngata kicked Lauvao after the lineman blocked Ravens cornerback Dominique Franks at the end of a run.
"When I saw Lauvao do that, I kind of was just [angry] that he was doing that and just nudged him," Ngata said last week following the Redskins game. "Kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing, was just trying to protect my player. No disrespect to Shawn because we know each other."