A year ago, hardly anyone would have noticed if Troy Smith missed the first hour-plus of practice.
Today, more than a few fans were heard asking, "Where's Troy?"
It turns out the second-year quarterback was taking a drug test and had trouble providing a urine sample, according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh in his post-practice news conference.
It was interesting to see how the dynamics shifted in Smith's absence. Kyle Boller, provided the opportunity to get more repetitions and perhaps separate himself from his main competition for the starting job, had the kind of workout that sums up his career in Baltimore -- bad luck and bad decisions.
Boller had one pass picked off by Ray Lewis after the ball sailed through tight end Todd Heap's hands, was pressured into simulated sacks on successive plays and then was intercepted again by Lewis in the end zone during a red-zone drill. He also had a couple of other passes nearly intercepted after underthrowing off his back foot.
Joe Flacco wasn't much better, though for the second time in three days he made his best play with his feet -- a naked bootleg run around left end. The rookie quarterback from Delaware managed to avoid getting sacked today, and got rid of the ball a couple of times, throwing to open spaces rather than the guys in the other white jerseys.
Smith returned for the last half hour to 45 minutes, and looked sharp in both the 7-on-7 drills as well as the one live 11-on-11 drill.
If the Ravens are going to use the no-huddle, as they did today for the first time this week, Smith is their man. Given the situation with the offensive line, and the fact that Smith seems to think better on his feet than Boller when the pocket or the play break down, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State should have the edge.
The defense looked pretty sharp in practice.
Aside from Lewis and cornerback Chris McAlister, whose interception of a Flacco pass would have been a touchdown in a regular game, the most impressive player on defense was rookie safety Haruki Nakamura. On successive plays in a red-zone drill, Nakamura batted away passes to Heap in one-one-one coverage.
There were no new injuries to report after the morning session. The Ravens did make one roster move earlier today when they cut Anwar Phillips, a second-year cornerback out of Penn State and the only defensive back with less than three years experience. To fill his roster spot, the Ravens signed Alex Haynes, who was with the Ravens in training camp in 2005 and spent the last three years shuttling between the practice squad and the 53-man roster of the Carolina Panthers. Haynes, a running back by trade, also plays special teams.