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Ravens notes: Team without approximately 40 percent of roster for preseason finale

Some sat on the bench during the official warmups. Others spread out along the sideline or behind the end zone. There seemed to be just as many Ravens in shorts and T-shirts as there were in uniform.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh stuck to his traditional plan of not playing his starters — and even some veteran reserves — in the fourth and final preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night.

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Thirty-nine players on the 90-man roster weren't in uniform because of either injuries or Harbaugh's desire to keep players healthy and fresh ahead of the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That left the offensive line and secondary particularly thin. Eight offensive linemen and 10 defensive backs didn't play.

Along with the already injured Ravens on offense, a group that includes quarterback Joe Flacco (back), running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), players that weren't in uniform included running backs Terrance West and Buck Allen, wide receivers Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, tight ends Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson and Maxx Williams and offensive linemen Ryan Jensen, Marshal Yanda, James Hurst, Austin Howard and Ronnie Stanley.

On defense, the Ravens didn't play linebackers Terrell Suggs, Matthew Judon and C.J. Mosley, defensive linemen Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce and Brent Urban and defensive backs Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, Eric Weddle and Anthony Levine Sr. Young cornerbacks Robertson Daniel and Jaylen Hill also missed the game, although their absences were believed to be health related.

Kicker Justin Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox also got the night off with Kenny Allen and Taybor Pepper handling kicking and snapping duties, respectively.

Harbaugh pleased with change: That Harbaugh had a little more roster flexibility Thursday can be attributed to a new rule change that took effect this year. In seasons past, teams would have to cut their roster from 90 players to 75 ahead of the fourth preseason game. The cuts, plus the inevitable players not available because of injuries and a coach's desire not to play starters in the final preseason game, led to small game-day rosters at this stage of the preseason.

However, in May, NFL owners voted to eliminate the first cut-down period in favor of just one round of roster cuts. By Saturday at 4 p.m., each team will have to trim their roster from 90 to 53 players.

"I am really happy with it, because 75 is never 75. It is usually about 50 or 55, 60, when you take into account guys that are nicked and bumped and bruised and things like that," Harbaugh said this week. "Then, you have certain guys that are not going to play in this game. That is just the reality of it. There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game. This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone."

The impetus of the rule was to give young players, who are long shots to make the team and may not have had a lot of reps in the preseason, a chance to play a lot in the final game and make an impression on either their current team or teams around the league who will be active on the waiver wire.

One downside is it creates an even more frantic cut-down day for team decision-makers, and some players will almost certainly get lost in the shuffle with so many becoming available at once.

Making his case: During a training camp and preseason in which several offensive players weren't on the field much or at all, second-year offensive lineman Matt Skura was the team's ironman. He started all four preseason games and played a team offensive high in snaps in two of the first three games.

"It's been an awesome experience for me," Skura said this week. "Coming in, I knew to make this team I wasn't going to have to just play center. I knew I was going to have to play guard. … I've been able to work on my craft at different positions and see what I need to improve. Especially when you're getting to go against the starters, against the other teams, it's great. You get to learn a lot about yourself as a player, and you see the offense and defense differently. It's just been a great learning experience."

Skura, a 2016 undrafted free agent out of Duke, spent all of last season on the practice squad. He came into training camp as a long shot to win the open starting center job. However, he's played well enough where he appears likely to make the team as a top interior reserve.

"I feel like I have to prove myself one more time," Skura said. "I have a bunch of family members asking me what is going on, and I tell myself, 'Never put the cart in front of the horse.' I can't get ahead of myself, because you just do not know week to week what is going to happen."

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Ravens make $1 million donation: The Ravens announced Thursday that they are donating $1 million to help Houston recover from the damage from Hurricane Harvey.

Their donation will go to the United Way of Greater Houston, with the funds distributed to the United Way Relief Fund for Hurricane Harvey, the Salvation Army of Houston and the Red Cross. The Ravens joined a growing list of NFL organizations and professional sports teams to contribute financial help to Houston.

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