As the Ravens headed into the bye week, coach John Harbaugh expressed that the team was willing to take any measures necessary to improve the team.
He said the organization would trade guys, cut guys or sign guys if that’s what it took.
Huff, 30, had signed a three-year deal with Baltimore in the offseason and opened the season as the starter at free safety. But he lost his job after one week before struggling to make a contribution in coverage and on special teams.
Spears, 30, signed a two-year deal with the Ravens, but his specialty is run defense and the team has had difficulty in that department over the last month. Couple that with the improved health of young linemen Brandon Williams and Terrence Cody, and Spears became expendable.
Harbaugh addressed the decisions to part with the two vets at his Wednesday meeting with the media.
“Those two guys did a great job for us. We appreciate what they’ve done,” Harbaugh said. “I had a chance to talk to them last night. Good men, good Ravens and I just appreciate what they did for us. That’s not to preclude the possibility that they could come back at some point and try to help us in the future. They’re in shape and healthy enough to do that, so that’ll obviously be a down-the-road possibility.”
Harbaugh disagreed with the idea that the moves were made to send a message to the team after three losses in four games.
“We’re really not about that. To me, that’s always a fact of life in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “What we always try to do is have the strongest roster we possibly can to be as good a team as we can possibly be on Sunday. We feel like these moves move us in the right direction. So 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 those things.”
The Ravens added two safeties off the practice squad to fill out the 53-man roster, Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick. Both are considered standout special teams performers, and the Ravens have had some breakdowns in that area of late.
“Those are guys that give us a chance as backup safeties and also special teams players that have done s good job in practice on special teams and in games when they’ve been in there,” Harbaugh said. “So that gives us a chance to bolster that area a little bit. ...
“These are two good young safeties. We have high hopes for both of these guys. Omar’s been here a year and half now. Brynden was kind of a surprise guy to make the team the first week or so, had a tremendous training camp. So we think they both have a tremendous upside on defense and special teams, and we need that.”
Several Ravens veterans weighed in on the moves to part with Huff and Spears, and defensive lineman Chris Canty had perhaps the strongest words.
Canty, also in his first year with Baltimore, said there is a message to take from the decisions to cut two vets, transactions that will have salary cap ramifications, especially in Huff’s case.
“The message is win, plain and simple,” Canty said. “If you don’t get your job done, they’re going to find somebody else that 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. It’s their decision to make and you have to move forward with that and go about the business of getting our job done on the field, which is winning football games.”
Linebacker Terrell Suggs admitted he was surprised to not see Huff and Spears in the locker room anymore with their lockers already boarded up.
“Yeah, but they kind of hinted at it, that we were going to be losing some guys,” Suggs said. “It sucks, but it’s part of the business and we have to get on with our season.”
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil shared similar feelings.
“It’s a business. Great guys, great teammates. I just wish them the very best,” Dumervil said. “It happens all the time. I don’t know any franchise it doesn’t. Guys get traded, cut, released. It’s just part of the business and that’s why it’s so competitive being in the NFL. So it just comes with the territory.”
With Spears gone, Williams and Cody, as well as perhaps DeAngelo Tyson, will get increased roles on the defensive line.
Williams has performed well in four games since returning from a toe injury. Canty expects to see that group of young linemen seize the opportunity.
“The scholarship’s over. You’ve got to step up. Scholarship’s over, plain and simple,” Canty said. “We’ve got to get it done on the football field on Sundays and it’s not in practice. That’s not to say that practice doesn’t translate to success on the field, but obviously the entire football team has to take our practices to the game, and that’s including those younger guys. So I look forward to good things from them moving forward. As they continue to get the experience and the confidence of game situations, I have no doubt that they’ll be able to make plays for this football team.”