Harbaugh on the bye week, preparing for Cleveland
OWINGS MILLS - As coach John Harbaugh warned last week, players would be cut, traded, or demoted if the coaches and front office decided those moves were necessary.
On Wednesday, a piece of plywood covered the locker stalls where safety Michael Huff and defensive lineman Marcus Spears used to dress. Their nameplates had been removed.
The rest of the Ravens had to notice. Two NFL veterans, two players acquired as free agents during the offseason, were released Wednesday. Before practice, defensive end Chris Canty summed up the team’s reaction to the departures of Huff and Spears.
“The message is - win,” Canty said. “Plain and simple. If you don’t get your job done, they’re going to find somebody else who can get it done. In the case of Michael and Marcus, they felt like it was in the best interest of the team to move forward. Whether you agree or disagree with it doesn’t really matter.”
Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick were promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. They are two young safeties that can also play special teams, where the Ravens (3-4) need to improve. Huff lost his starting safety spot after Week 1, but he may have sealed his fate by also playing poorly on special teams. Huff lost outside containment on the final kickoff coverage against the Steelers, allowing Emmanuel Sanders to make a 44-yard return that helped set up the game-winning field goal.
Harbaugh did not want to categorize the roster moves as “delivering a message.” Then again, he didn’t have to.
“To me, there’s always the fact of life in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll always try to have the strongest possible roster we can. We feel these were necessary moves we needed to make to be the best team we can be in all three phases. Any message beyond that, guys already understand.”
Spears was hampered by knee injury during his short stint with the Ravens, and younger lineman like rookie Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson were outperforming Spears. The Ravens still view themselves as contenders, but they are clearly a team in transition, and the roster is getting younger. Rookie Matt Elam is starting at one safety spot, Trawick is also a rookie, and Brown is only in his second season.
“These are two good young safeties,’” Harbaugh said of Trawick and Brown. “We have high hopes for both these guys. Omar’s been here a year and a half now. Brynden, kind of a surprise guy to make the team. Had a great training camp. We think they both have tremendous upside on defense.”
The Ravens may have attempted to trade Huff and Spears prior to Tuesday’s deadline, but when that was not accomplished, they were let go. Still, Canty admitted he was surprised.
“It’s a shocking thing,” Canty said. “It’s one of the things I haven’t gotten used to being in this business nine years.”
However, the Ravens are not used to losing under Harbaugh. They need a win Sunday in Cleveland. But they decided they no longer needed Huff and Canty.