Injuries, additional specialists and the versatility of a few football players affected the choices for a team that considers itself a playoff contender.
"Last year, we didn't have 53 players that we really wanted," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "This year, we had to make some pretty tough decisions. "Last year, we didn't have that. It was like it didn't matter because we didn't have 53 quality football players in our mind."
Veteran defensive lineman Joe Salave'a claimed one of the last spots as he proved his knee was healthy in a 30-24 loss to the New York Giants on Thursday with a sack and a forced fumble. Baltimore terminated the contract of defensive end Riddick Parker and waived NFL preseason sack leader Nate Bolling to forge a place for Salave'a. Bolling said he was told to be ready to join the five-member practice squad next week.
The Ravens terminated the contract of linebacker Johnny Rutledge to carry seven linebackers, including hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas. Thomas' ability to swing between both positions made Rutledge expendable.
Baltimore also has a swell of running backs. It kept six because fullback Harold Morrow is the designated wedge-buster, rookie running back Musa Smith (third-round pick) had arthroscopic knee surgery last week and the potential of imposing rookie fullback Ovie Mughelli (fourth-round pick). "It was a very long night," Mughelli said. "I only slept a little bit. It was a numbers game that was out of my control. I worked my butt off on special teams."
Former Morgan State receiver Marc Lester was waived despite a solid preseason. Wideout Randy Hymes was assigned to injured reserve because of his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Now, the Ravens have only four receivers. Veteran starter Frank Sanders has been out since dislocating toes against the Buffalo Bills "We only use two or three and having a weapon like tight end Todd Heap, that works out," Newsome said. "If there's a receiver or any other position that we think will upgrade our football team, then we'll go after it."
Plus, the Ravens cut running back Ryan Brewer, linebacker Chris Brown, wide receiver Todd Devoe, punter Derrick Frost, tight end Lamar Hill, cornerback Airabin Justin, receiver Chisom Opara (Gilman), offensive tackle Lawrence Smith and long snapper Mike Solwold.
Offensive guard Jim Jones is a potential injury settlement candidate after spraining his medial collateral ligament against the New York Giants.
Newsome said the Ravens are fairly certain about what their last two moves will be. "We basically know who they are," he said. "There are some medical things that have to take place that will definitely determine who will be the last two guys to go."
MEDICAL UPDATE: Trainer Bill Tessendorf said Hymes' injury is a virtual carbon copy of the one running back Jamal Lewis incurred two years ago in training camp. Hymes' knee was struck helmet-first by a Giant on a kickoff return. No surgery date has been set yet.
Porter aggravated his groin at practice Saturday. Running back Musa Smith (knee) remains out along with cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring).
QUICK HIT: Newsome said he didn't hold trade discussions for Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell recently, but acknowledged talking casually about Brunell with Jacksonville personnel boss James Harris before the NFL draft.
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.