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OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens began trimming their roster down Friday prior to Saturday’s league-mandated 53-man limit, releasing 10 players and placing offensive guard Brian Rimpf on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
That leaves Baltimore with 11 more transactions to execute by 4 p.m., the NFL deadline.
In perhaps their most prominent move, the Ravens released linebacker Roderick Green, a fifth-round draft pick in 2004 who has performed well on special teams and as a situational pass rusher. Last season, Green registered a career-high 17 special-teams tackles and two sacks while playing in all 16 games.
Meanwhile, Baltimore waived defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, tight end Bobby Blizzard, safety Robb Butler, linebacker Jimmy Cottrell, offensive tackle Rob Droege, kicker Aaron Elling, wide receiver Travis LaTendresse, center Thatcher Szalay and defensive back Duvol Thompson.
Elling’s departure would seem to be yet another signal that rookie Sam Koch will handle kickoff duties in addition to having clearly beaten out veteran Leo Araguz for the punting job.
Placing Rimpf on injured reserve after he started seven games last season at right guard and cutting Szalay likely means that the Ravens are counting on the versatility of reserve interior blockers Jason Brown and Chris Chester.
BLOCKING PROGRESS: The blocking wasn’t exactly perfect, but it was more than satisfactory to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair. Especially since he wasn’t battered and harassed the way he was dealt with the previous week.
McNair wasn’t sacked or even really hurried much during a one-quarter appearance in the Ravens’ 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night at FedEx Field.
“I don’t think I got touched,” McNair said. “I scrambled a little bit to buy some more time for the receivers downfield, but overall they did a wonderful job. “Overall, we played well, we played fast, we played hard and we played physical. That’s what you need and we just need to carry it over to next week.”
That wasn’t how the offensive line was being widely described when McNair was sacked twice in the third preseason game, a 30-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that drew major scrutiny to the blocking.
The coaching staff, though, in an apparent nod that right guard Keydrick Vincent and right tackle Tony Pashos could stand for some more improvement, expanded their workload. They were the only starters to play beyond the first two series.
Vincent allowed a sack in the second quarter as Kendrick Golston burst past him at the line of scrimmage to deck backup quarterback Kyle Boller.
“I’m fine with playing a little bit longer, whatever the coaches want me to do,” Vincent said. “The more work I can get, the better."
NUANCES: A week ago, Mark Clayton was blamed by Ravens coach Brian Billick for his blown route leading to McNair’s interception that was returned for a touchdown Against the Redskins, the McNair-to-Clayton connection resulted in a 15-yard touchdown on a well-thrown spiral between the defensive backs.
“I talk everyday with Mark about getting used to his body language, about me getting used to his timing on his routes,” McNair said. “This was a good sign that I don’t have to wait until he comes out of his break to throw the football. I think we’re feeling comfortable about it. We got it fixed and that’s the sign of a good football team."
THROWING DEEP: Until the Redskins’ game, McNair’s longest completion was a 36-yard screen pass to running back Musa Smith. Essentially, McNair flipped him the football out of the backfield and Smith did the rest.
Against the Redskins, though, McNair’s arm got more of a workout with a 35-yard downfield pass to wide receiver Devard Darling. Plus, Boller hit Demetrius Williams for a 29-yard touchdown and found Romby Bryant for a 45-yard completion.
“Anytime they give us an opportunity to throw the ball deep you want to take advantage of it,” McNair said. “You want to be able to have that balance between short balls and deep balls.”
McNair appears to have absorbed offensive coordinator Jim Fassel’s version of the West Coast offense after being acquired in June in a trade with the Tennessee Titans. During four preseason games, he completed 35 of 46 passes (76.1 percent) for 335 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 94.0 passer rating while rushing for a touchdown.
“Every week, his knowledge has increased in the new system,” Clayton said. "He’s everything everyone expected him to be like."
TRAINING ROOM: Starting fullback Justin Green said his sprained medial collateral ligament isn’t serious. He estimated that he would be available to play Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but stressed that he hadn’t been given a specific timetable for his return. It’s possible that Green will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine the severity of his knee injury.
“I don’t think I’m going to miss anytime at all,” Green said. “I expect to be right back out there on the field.”
Offensive guard Brian Rimpf’s strained hamstring is coming along to the point where he’s running without pain, but it might be too late. Rimpf remains a strong candidate to be placed on injured reserve, meaning the Ravens would only have to make 21 cuts prior to today’s league-mandated deadline to shave the roster down to 53 players.
Besides Green’s injury, wide receiver Clarence Moore and linebacker Mike Smith sprained their knees and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (hip flexor) were injured during the game.
The Ravens held out wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee bruise) and cornerback Chris McAlister (sore thigh) as precautionary measures.
“I would have been able to play if it had been a regular-season game,” Mason said.
QUICK HIT: Undrafted rookie free agent quarterback Drew Olson completed four of eight passes for 38 yards, leading the Ravens on a fourth-quarter drive that set up Aaron Elling’s 42-yard field goal.
“It was nice to get some throws in and have some success,” said the former UCLA standout. “I tried to pay attention while I was basically watching for three games and put what I learned into practice to get us a field goal.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times.