The competition for the No. 3 quarterback job is one of the few intriguing battles so far at Ravens training camp. Troy Smith and Drew Olson will take their evolving contest from the practice fields at McDaniel College in Westminster to M&T; Bank Stadium for tomorrow night's opening preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Smith, who was drafted in the fifth round this year after winning the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State last season, has been getting more reps in practice than Olson, who signed as a free agent out of UCLA in 2006 before spending last season on the Ravens practice squad and playing for an NFL Europa team in Amsterdam.
As he has done through the first two weeks of practice, Smith had his good moments and others when he looked like a rookie in yesterday's morning workout. His first pass in full-team drills was picked off by veteran cornerback Samari Rolle, but he finished off the seven-on-seven drill by floating a touchdown pass to rookie receiver Damien Linson.
The same was true yesterday for Olson, who looked sharp on his first series but then had another Pro Bowl cornerback, Chris McAlister, step in front of a swing pass with nothing but clear space between him and the end zone. Both quarterbacks also had a couple of good throws dropped.
"Every play is important, and you have to treat it that way as a quarterback, never take a play off," Smith said after practice. "And as a professional, that's the way it has to be every second of every day. Be as professional as you can be and try to take that with you on the field."
Smith would seem to have had an advantage over Olson going into camp, because the Ravens in their history have never cut as celebrated a draft pick as Smith. It didn't hurt that Ray Lewis mentioned that he was a "fan of Troy Smith" during the team's organized team activities in June.
"Nothing's promised, I don't care who you are," said Smith, whose draft status plummeted when the Buckeyes lost to Florida in last season's Bowl Championship Series title game and continued to drop at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Olson is not looking at tomorrow's game as a make-or-break situation, or his competition with Smith as an uphill battle, because the Ravens gave the rookie a three-year contract that included a $105,000 signing bonus.
"It's however the coaches perceive it," Olson said. "To tell you the truth, I just look at it by game, and I do whatever I can do. If I looked at it as an uphill battle, I'd press too much and try to do too much. I just want to do stay within myself and play my game."
Quarterbacks coach and first-year offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel said tomorrow night's game should give him and Ravens coach Brian Billick another clue as to who will be the team's No. 3 quarterback this season.
"Practice situations, the reps are so limited, you can find out who can learn vicariously," Neuheisel said yesterday. "But there's nothing like being out there with no coaches around and doing all the little things that maybe are overlooked when you're coaching a fundamental of a play and see who can move the chains."
Grubbs chasing butterflies
Ben Grubbs had a minor setback early in camp when he missed a couple of days with a banged-up knee, but the first-round draft choice is ready to make his NFL debut against the Eagles.
"Never nervous, just anxious," said Grubbs, who will back up Chris Chester at right guard. "I'm confident that I'm ready."
Grubbs, who was used to playing in front of big crowds at Auburn, can't wait to take the field in Baltimore.
What does he look forward to the most?
"It'll probably be the rush, getting the butterflies before the game, just getting in my zone, getting ready to play," Grubbs said.
Reserve tight end Daniel Wilcox is hopeful that he will be out only a few more days because of the sprained left ankle he sustained Wednesday. Asked whether he could be back for the team's first practice (Wednesday) after tomorrow's preseason game, Wilcox said: "I'm real optimistic. I might even be able to play on Monday. Right now, it's just day-to-day. Sometimes it hurts [bad] one day and then it feels great the next day. Just doing a lot of praying." ... Punters Sam Koch and Brendan Carney will take a majority of the kickoffs against the Eagles, according to kicker Matt Stover and special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr.
Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this story.