-- Chris Kelley is reminded of his precarious position with the Baltimore Ravens every time he walks into the spacious locker room at the team's training facility. Kelley, a safety who was signed as a rookie free agent in May, was not assigned one of the nice wooden lockers that line the walls. Instead, he was given one of the black metal cages that are pushed together in the middle of the room.
The black lockers will be gone by the weekend; Sunday is the league deadline for teams to whittle their rosters to the regular season maximum of 53 players. The question is, will Kelley be gone, too?
The former Seneca Valley High School and University of Maryland standout realizes his last chance will be Thursday, when the Ravens (1-2) host the Washington Redskins (1-2) in the preseason finale.
"It's the last preseason game, and after that, you're either going to be here or you're not," Kelley said. "It's definitely big, especially for me, a guy trying to make the team."
The Ravens will have two sets of priorities at M&T Bank Stadium. They need to take a final hard look at the players who are fighting for the last two or three spots on the roster. They also need three players -- running back Jamal Lewis, tight end Todd Heap and linebacker Peter Boulware, none of whom has played yet -- to get some work in preparation for the regular season opener Sept. 11 against the Colts.
"We need to look at some players that we don't want to let get out of here for lack of a good solid look," Coach Brian Billick said. "We need to get some key players -- Jamal, Peter and Todd -- that first good initial hit. That is a huge priority. We have got to see if we can have a certain continuity about us."
Lewis had a very good week of practice, according to Billick, and looked explosive. The running back has been battling some pain in his right ankle because of scar tissue breaking up; Lewis underwent surgery on that ankle in January. Billick said he would like Lewis to get eight to 10 plays, including four or five carries.
Heap has spent the past eight months rehabilitating following ankle surgery in January and shoulder surgery in April. He began practicing last week.
Boulware, who was re-signed two weeks ago to be a pass-rushing specialist, has not played since December 2003. He missed all of last year with knee and toe injuries.
Lewis, Heap, and Boulware -- who have seven Pro Bowl appearances among them -- are not worried about making the team; their goal is to make sure they are at full strength in time for the Ravens' nationally televised opener. But players such as Kelley -- or wide receiver Devard Darling and tight end Trent Smith -- need to stand out.
"That's where the passion is, that is where the intensity falls," Billick said. "They have got no clue, or care, what the opener is about. They are just trying to make the football team."
For Kelley, winning a spot on the eight-man practice squad, which can be formed on Sunday, is more realistic than making the 53-man roster. He has been playing safety for two years, having started his career as a quarterback (he was the All-Met Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Seneca Valley in 1999).
"I definitely accomplished something, but I haven't won yet," Kelley said. "I may have won the battle, but I haven't won the war yet. Not when the big fish are still out there. I've still got a chance to do that. I've just got to go out there and play tough and play hard."
Ravens Notes: Cornerback Samari Rolle (knee) and cornerback Deion Sanders (hamstring) will not play on Thursday. Neither player practiced this week, though both are expected to be ready for the season opener. . . .
Thursday's game will be the first time the Ravens have hosted the Redskins in Baltimore (excluding a controlled scrimmage between the teams on Aug. 6). Billick said he would like to see the rivalry continue, though he would rather have the teams meet in the second or third game of the preseason, when the starters are on the field for more substantial stretches of time.