Stills: Livelihood on line

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

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Special teams veteran at risk as team prepares to make final cuts

August 30, 2008|By Ken Murray and Edward Lee | Ken Murray and Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Final cuts arrive today for the Ravens, and one player conspicuously on the bubble is 10-year veteran Gary Stills.

"The cost of playing football is going through things like this, where your livelihood is on the line," Stills said after the team's fourth preseason game Thursday night. "That's good. Pressure is my best friend."

That's an attitude that helped Stills, 34, through nine NFL seasons spent in two cities. He has made a career working the fast lanes of special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Ravens.

But the addition of Pro Bowl special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo, who turns 32 next Saturday, and a surplus of linebackers seemingly has placed Stills' job in jeopardy this summer.

A Pro Bowl selection himself, Stills set an NFL record with 44 special teams tackles in 2006 with the Ravens. After falling to 26 a year ago, he found himself fighting for his job in the preseason.

If Thursday's game was his farewell to Baltimore, Stills gave the Ravens much to think about. He made five tackles at linebacker, the best of which came when he stopped an end-around by the Atlanta Falcons for an 11-yard loss.

But he also was flagged for two penalties (personal foul, holding) in the second half of a 10-9 loss.

By 6 p.m. today, the Ravens must trim 22 players from the roster to reach the 53-man limit. They can establish their practice squad by noon tomorrow.

The Ravens' new special teams coordinator, Jerry Rosburg, praised Stills' distinguished career as a specialist.

"[His longevity] comes from the fact he values it so much," Rosburg said. "It's his craft. Not many guys can do it as well as he does it. He's in an elite category."

Stills isn't ready to face the end of that career just yet.

"This team has appreciated Gary Stills the last two years," he said. "If they appreciate Gary Stills another year, great. If they don't, I'm still fine. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to come play in this program.

"But I don't want to think about that. I'm ready to play football next week for the Baltimore Ravens."

Douglas is back

Of the previous nine seasons that defensive end Marques Douglas has spent in the NFL, his best - statistically speaking - was in 2004, his final year with the Ravens. That's why Douglas, 31, was ecstatic when he learned that the team had acquired him from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two draft picks. "Best is a small word," Douglas said. He was brought in to replace Dwan Edwards, who was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. "It was an awesome experience when I got that call at about 5:30 [p.m.] that I was coming back to Baltimore. I was like, 'I'm all for it.' "

End zone

Tight end Todd Heap did not have a catch Thursday, but he was pleased with his first action of the preseason. "It felt good," he said. "I just got out there and got into the flow a little bit. It felt good to be out there. I can't wait for next week." ... Wide receiver Demetrius Williams caught just one pass in more than a quarter of play, but it covered 22 yards. "I hadn't been out there in a while, so it felt good to knock some of the rust off and get back out there in the swing of things," he said.

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