As the Ravens walked off the practice field yesterday, something felt a little different. The normally boisterous post-practice atmosphere had definitely turned more solemn.
The fun part of the game of football will disappear for about the next 24 hours, as hundreds of players around the league will find out today that they've lost jobs. For many of those players, the news that they've been cut will end their dreams of playing NFL football for good.
That's something which is not lost on head coach John Harbaugh.
"It's a tough time," Harbaugh said. "You see these guys and they're loose, but you can tell that they are thinking about (the roster cuts). There are a lot of guys at stake right here as far as who is going to make it, who is not. It's the toughest part of the job that we have because they have all become Ravens. They have all become part of us. We'll just to see how that goes over the next 24 hours."
For the bubble players, guys like linebacker Jason Phillips, getting a good night's sleep last night couldn't have been easy.
Imagine every time your phone rings or you get an email, you think it might be your agent, telling you whether you've done enough to earn a roster spot. As the cut deadline gets closer, you wonder whether you know where your next paycheck will come from.
Despite all that, Phillips - the Ravens' fifth-round pick in 2009 - said that he's going into this uncertain time feeling confident he's made the team.
"Yeah, I do," Phillips said. "I enjoy being here. It's changed a lot since my first year. My first year, I didn't know if I could play or how my knee was going to hold up. This year, it's just been reassuring me that I can play, and it's given me a chance to really work on little things that I need to get better at."
Rookies, like seventh-round running back Anthony Allen, have never been through this process before. The Georgia Tech product, who is battling veteran Jalen Parmele for the Ravens' third running back job, said he plans to stay as positive as possible and not let any negative thoughts creep into his head.
"You can't even bring that stress on you, you can't bring that stress on your family," Allen said. "You've got to remain calm, remain positive and hope that everything you've done up to this point will get you through.
"I'm just confident in what I've done in practice, I'm confident in what I've done in games. It's out of my hands now. Whatever happens, happens. I'm hoping for the best, though.
For Harbaugh and the coaching staff, this is both an exciting time and a difficult one. Shaping the 53-man roster and finalizing what your team will look like has to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, while breaking the tough news to over two dozen players must take its toll.
"That's the thing: You are excited to finalize your roster. You are excited to say, 'OK, this is going to be our team. This is how we're going to move forward,' " Harbaugh said. "But that's going to not include some guys. That's the toughest thing because we love having every guy around. They wouldn't be here if they haven't been great - haven't done a great job for us. Those are going to be tough conversations that we are going to have."