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QBs set sights on snapping into action with some flash

Chris Redman is eager to take a hit.

Kyle Boller is eager to be a hit.

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The main drama surrounding the Ravens' training camp - the ultra-secretive quarterback competition - takes center stage at M&T; Bank Stadium tonight in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

None of the players knows when the quarterbacks will play. None of the coaches knows how they will play.

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It's the first game since back surgery for Redman, the favorite to win the starting spot. It's the first NFL snap for Boller, the promising first-rounder. And it's the first Ravens game for journeyman Anthony Wright, the dark horse in the race.

By the end of the night, there should be some light shed on the biggest mystery hounding a team with heightened expectations.

"Practice is great, and we do the blow-by-blow of who completed what, but it's all about the game and how they handle it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I've got to be careful that I don't become too much of a spectator. I'm anxious to see all three perform."

To avoid any distraction, Billick placed a gag order on the competition from the first day of camp and has declined to tip his hand on the quarterback rotation.

But here's the most likely scenario: Redman will start and play the first quarter, Wright will take over for the second quarter and Boller will finish out and quarterback the entire second half.

The real duel is between Redman and Boller, and this rotation allows Redman to have the first shot with the starters and Boller to have the most playing time.

The situation is quite a reversal for Redman, who was given the job at the start of last year's camp and now has to fight for it. Over the past eight months, he has undergone back surgery and watched the Ravens give up a first- and second-round pick to draft Boller.

Redman, though, said he believes he controls his own fate, and he might be right. With Boller missing a week of practice as a holdout and Wright looking too mechanical during practices, it appears to be Redman's job to lose at this point.

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"You try not to put too much pressure on yourself, but at the same time, it's there," Redman said. "You know you have to perform to be out on the field. The intensity is up a little bit, but I'm more excited than nervous about getting out there."

For the coaching staff, there is a lingering question about Redman's health.

The former third-round pick started six games last year before a herniated disc ended his season. He has shown improved arm strength since the back operation in January, but he has yet to get tapped much less hit in the back.

"I'm sure he's probably thinking about it," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "But he's been moving around well enough that I got to believe that he'll have enough things to worry about that it's not a big deal to him."

Cavanaugh then added, "But I'll absolutely see how fast he gets up."

Redman has said repeatedly over the offseason that he is looking forward to that first hit.

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"I'm pretty sure I'm going to hold up," Redman said. "I'm not too worried about it, but it'll be nice to show people that I can make it through a game."

There is equal anticipation over the debut of Boller.

Ravens officials are ecstatic over Boller's strong arm and his ability to mentally pick up the playbook. The biggest obstacle tonight for the much-hyped quarterback of the future is to concentrate on the present.

"I'm very excited. I'm living a childhood dream," Boller said. "I'm going to try to make sure the adrenaline doesn't affect my throwing because sometimes you can get carried away."

Historically, rookie quarterbacks throw more interceptions than touchdowns, and Boller has been picked off a handful of times this week. The only way to fix that problem is learning through game experience.

"I have a long way to go," Boller said. "Until I get a good understanding of our plays - which I'm getting there - it will be a lot easier. I'll be able to focus more on what the defense is doing."

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The Ravens' quarterbacks get one reprieve: a day off from their defense.

There has been little room for error in going against a nasty defense led by linebacker Ray Lewis, who's as intense as ever after missing 11 games last year with a dislocated shoulder. This defense will get to measure itself for at least one series against the Buffalo Bills and Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

"You get tired of going up the same people and you want to see some new guys," said pass rusher Terrell Suggs, the other first-round pick who will make his Ravens debut tonight. "That part of it will be fun."

Ravens tonight

Preseason opponent: Buffalo Bills

Site:M&T; Bank Stadium

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Time:8

TV/Radio:Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM, WQSR (105.7 FM)

Line:Ravens by 3


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