Survival mode in St. Louis for several Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- It's survival mode tonight in St. Louis. The Baltimore Ravens' roster bubble is about to pop in a few days for 22 players, and this preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams at Edward Jones Dome represents the last chance to audition for a job

"I'm going to approach it like it's the Super Bowl for me," defensive lineman Lamar Divens said. "I expect to play a lot. I want to show them I can play end, tackle and nose if they need me to. I'm going to leave it all out there."

That attitude captures the sentiment for multiple hopefuls as the Ravens prepare to cut the roster down from 75 players to the NFL limit of 53 players by Saturday's league deadline.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith is making his bid to be retained as the Ravens' third quarterback behind starter Joe Flacco and backup Marc Bulger. Smith is scheduled to start and play all four quarters.

"Since I've been here, I've fought every year," Smith said. "That's the nature of the beast. At this level, it's about competing. Not everybody that you slap fives with is going to be your teammate."

The battle to make the team has become even more difficult due to injuries to a handful key players, who could start the regular season on the active roster.

That may block many players from earning a roster spot.

Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth is expected back in at least two months from a broken foot.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb is still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but has been activated to practice after passing his physical.

Offensive linemen Jared Gaither (thoracic disc condition), Oniel Cousins (concussion) and David Hale (bruised tailbone) remain sidelined.

Rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody is expected to miss the first game after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this week.

And it's still up the air as to whether free safety Ed Reed will be activated from the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason hip surgery.

Even though the starters will be rested tonight, the game still has significance for the players on the fringe of the roster.

"It's not meaningless for the guys who have so much at stake," coach John Harbaugh said. "There might be five, six, seven, eight guys who are battling for those last roster spots, and this game is really what it's going to come down to. Some of those competitions are so close that they'll be determined in this last game when those guys get so many reps.

"Some guys that have made the team will have to develop their game a little bit, improve a little bit and maybe expand their role a little bit. So it's a very important game for guys on the football team."

It's an extremely pivotal night for undrafted rookie cornerback Prince Miller, who's vying for one of the last spots.

He has operated as a nickel back and has averaged 13.9 yards per punt return.

He's expected to take all of the punt returns, but his roster status could be affected by the arrival of cornerback Josh Wilson via a trade. His presence could also hurt the chances of veteran corner Travis Fisher.

"I want to go back there and show them what I can do and make some things happen," Miller said. "I understand this game means a lot, so you obviously want to go out and perform well. I'm not going to put any added pressure on myself. I'm not going to be foolish and try to do too much."

The Ravens' kicking competition remains alive between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff.

There's also the wide receiver competition between Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith and David Reed. Williams has a sprained right ankle and probably needs to play hurt to show the coaching staff what he can do.

"I've just got to go out there and work hard," Williams said. "The biggest thing is just whatever my team needs me to do, that's what I'm going to be able to do."

Tight end Davon Drew and running back Curtis Steele are two players who are probably not going to make the final cut, but could wind up on the practice squad.

And the Ravens have a tough call on the defensive line with rookie fifth-round draft pick Arthur Jones and veterans Brandon McKinney, Divens and Kelly Talavou. There might only be one or two spots with four vying for the jobs.

"I'm having a pretty good camp," said McKinney, who had surgery to repair a herniated disc last year. "I'm trying to capitalize on some things I did last year. I'm not going to put any extra pressure on myself."

"The NFL is all about competition, and that's what I'm all about," Jones said. "You put it on the line and you show what you can do. I don't worry about anything else."

It's also a tight race between linebackers Edgar Jones, Jason Phillips and Prescott Burgess, who appears to have an edge because of his special-teams contributions.

A fifth-round draft pick last season, Phillips spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He has had a strong preseason, but could be a victim of the Ravens' depth at inside linebacker.

Rookie Albert McClellan is a long shot.

"When I go out there and play, I try not to think about the 53-man roster," said Jones, who recorded a sack against the New York Giants last week and also had a costly penalty. "I try not to think about anything. It's not for me to worry about anything. It's for me to go out and play."

Burgess appears to have an edge because of his special teams contributions and has also recorded two sacks this preseason.

"I'm happy with how things are going," Burgess said. "I'm hearing good things from the coaches. You can't stress out or count the numbers. That's not the way to make the team. You make the team by playing hard and playing well.

NOTES: The trade for Wilson is now official after he passed his physical Wednesday. The Ravens sent a conditional 2011 fifth-round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night, and the selection could be a fourth-rounder depending on how many games Wilson starts. .. Undrafted rookie fullback Mike McLaughlin was placed on injured reserve to create a roster spot for Wilson. McLaughlin has a sports hernia, an injury initially characterized as a hip flexor. ... Undrafted rookie safety Brad Jones is hoping for a practice squad spot. "I think that's the scenario I'm probably heading for," he said. "I'm not afraid to do that. Everybody has to start somewhere."

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