Meaningless game? Not for Ravens bubble guys

Meaningless game? Not for Ravens bubble guys
August 28, 2013, 7:00 am
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Baltimore wide receiver competition heating up

Baltimore Ravens tight end Matt Furstenburg prepares to catch a pass during NFL football training camp at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens, Wednesday, Aug. 28, as they prepare for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Rams. 

Two-minute topic: Is this fourth and final preseason game as meaningless as fans paint it out to be?

The final preseason game each year is generally met with a collective yawn by fans. Starters won't play much, if at all, and to many, it's a meaningless exercise on the way to the regular-season opener, which this season will be next Thursday, Sept. 5, at Denver.

But is the game meaningless? Not to rookie tight end Matt Furstenburg it's not. Nor to running back Bobby Rainey. These players sit squarely on the roster bubble, and in Thursday night's game in St. Louis, they could be playing for their careers.

Granted, some of those ultimately cut by the Ravens could return as practice squad players. Others could earn tryouts with other teams, either this season or in training camp next season. But it's also possible -- likely, in fact -- that some will play the last game of their career on Thursday night. Don't tell them it's meaningless.

The team has reduced its 90-man training camp roster to 75, and must whittle it again to the final 53-player limit by Saturday at 6 p.m. So for Furstenburg, Rainey and others, the game in St. Louis is their final chance to make a case to be included on the roster.

Most of the roster decisions have already been made, at least internally. But after practice on Tuesday, coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that, "There are a couple guys that, perhaps if they really, really play well, they could really play themselves on, or guys could play themselves off. It’s possible.”

He didn't name names, of course, but Furstenburg, the former Terp, could be one of those. He is a promising, athletic rookie at a position that -- with the injuries to Dennis Pitta (hip) and Ed Dickson (hamstring) -- has surprisingly become one of need this preseason.

“Hard work has paid off to survive the first round of cuts," Furstenburg told the team web site. "I’m just trying to work hard and make the next cuts.”

So is Rainey, the 5-8, 212-pound back who this preseason has had a 58-yard kickoff return and a 60-yard punt return. Rainey made the 53-man roster last season as an undrafted rookie, only to be cut 10 days later and re-signed to the practice squad. So he has been through this agonizing drill before.

"“I have to focus more on special teams in order to make this team,” Rainey told the team site. “It’s whatever they ask me to do. If they ask me to go down on kickoffs, I have to go down on kickoffs and make plays. That’s my goal going into this game, is taking a lot of reps on special teams and making plays there.”

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