Ravens' roster bubble about to pop

OWINGS MILLS - Zach Norton doesn't know if he's done enough to make the football team, or if he'll be discarded when the Baltimore Ravens' roster bubble pops. As the Ravens ponder their final decisions on who will be on the 53-man roster when practice resumes Saturday morning, the first-year cornerback's predicament is mirrored by several players on the verge of either an exit or an entrance to the NFL. The Ravens have to cut 17 players by Sunday, but are likely to make an announcement Saturday.

Norton's prospects were buoyed by two interceptions and, he hopes, not sunk by allowing touchdown passes of 22 and 37 yards in the Ravens' 26-20 overtime win Thursday night over the Washington Redskins.

"I probably won't sleep too good because of what happened and being worried whether I'm going to be on the team," said Norton, who's vying with Calvin Carlyle, Jamaine Winborne, B.J. Ward and Mark Estelle for the eighth and final spot in the secondary. "I just hope I did enough to make the team. All I can think about is getting beat on those double moves for the touchdown.

"I've got to make that play. The coaches expect me to make that play. Hopefully, it will turn out for the best. I don't want to be anywhere else but here in Baltimore."

It appears that intense rookie middle linebacker Mike Smith has created a niche on special teams and gained an edge over tight end Trent Smith and receiver Devard Darling for one of the last roster spots. Mike Smith isn't very fast, but has been lauded by coaches and scouts for his tackling, instincts and temperament.

Although Trent Smith had a strong preseason finale with four receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown, he acknowledged that it's unlikely that the Ravens will keep five tight ends. He's ranked behind Todd Heap, Darnell Dinkins, Terry Jones and Daniel Wilcox.

"Five tight ends, we'll see, maybe they'll become the first NFL team to keep five tight ends," said Trent Smith, who spent the last two seasons on injured reserve. "I'm proud because I left everything out there on the field. I've loved Baltimore. Baltimore has loved me.

"It's been a great experience here and I hope it's not over. [Tight ends coach] Wade Harman, told me if I do land on the waiver wire I won't be out of work long."

Meanwhile, Darling, last year's third-round draft pick, didn't register a catch in limited action. He finished the preseason with only one reception for 2 yards.

Will the Ravens give up on an athletic player it traded up to draft 82nd overall last year, or is this the end for the Bahamas native?

"I don't know what's going to happen," said Darling, who's eligible for the eight-man practice squad. "It's a business and you can only control what you do on the field. All you can do is work hard and do your best."

The Ravens might waive rookie quarterback Derek Anderson and place him on the practice squad as wide receiver Randy Hymes or punter Dave Zastudil could serve as emergency quarterbacks. The third quarterback is typically a game-day inactive anyway.

Rookie fullback Justin Green has likely edged out running back Tellis Redmon because of his versatility. Green is capable of playing tailback and fullback and rushed for 11 yards on three carries against the Redskins.

Fullback Ovie Mughelli, who's adept on special teams, appears safe after a good month of blocking for Chester Taylor.

Although fourth-round pick Jason Brown, who plays guard and center, hasn't had an impressive training camp, it's unlikely the Ravens will release him because of his long-term potential. The Ravens are likely to keep Brown in addition to eight other offensive linemen: tackles Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Brown, Adam Terry and Tony Pashos, center Mike Flynn, guards Edwin Mulitalo, Keydrick Vincent and Brian Rimpf.

Trent Smith appeared resigned to not making the team, barring unexpected developments.

"It's sad," Smith said. "I feel like crying. I've never been fired or cut in my life."

NOTES: Terry's left ankle sprain isn't believed to be serious, and X-rays were negative. "I'm going to let the doctors do their thing and try and get back as soon as I can," Terry said. "Who knows? It could be two days and I'm back in action." … Mike Smith, who suffered a concussion, left the locker room in a padded neck brace. ... Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton is gaining ground on starter Clarence Moore after Moore dropped two passes that would have converted third downs. "It's been a great learning experience," Clayton said. "I've made mistakes and corrected them. I feel good about it." … Randy Hymes and Patrick Johnson are giving the coaches a lot to think about in the battle for the fourth wide receiver position. Hymes caught two touchdown passes, including a 66-yard game-winner, to finish with five catches for 123 yards. Johnson caught four passes for 57 yards. … "It's competition and we're just two guys playing hard and having fun," Hymes said. "We're both making plays, and whoever's hot will play." … The Ravens have made $11 million worth of improvements at M&T Bank Stadium. They installed 82 plasma televisions on the concourse level, added directional signs, increased end-zone seating and instituted a new credit card payment system.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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