Ravens' QB battle now 3-horse race

From Steve McNair's abrupt retirement to Troy Smith's sudden illness, the Ravens' quarterback situation has been filled with unexpected twists.

After Saturday night's 24-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams, John Harbaugh provided another one.


The Ravens coach left open the possibility that rookie first-round pick Joe Flacco could jump back into contention for a starting job that had seemed to be between Smith and Kyle Boller.

Rushed into his first start Saturday, Flacco completed 18 of 37 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.


Asked whether the competition might now include three quarterbacks instead of two, Harbaugh said: "We'll see. That's a fair question. I just don't know the answer."

Flacco, the 18th overall pick, didn't learn he was starting until a few hours before the Ravens' third preseason game.

He acknowledged he was overly excited in the first half, when he was 4-for-13 passing for 33 yards. He seemed to settle down during halftime and went 14-for-24 for 119 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

"I think he's moving pretty quickly up the [learning] curve," Harbaugh said. "You saw it from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. So he's making a lot of progress."

While other NFL teams have cleared up their quarterback battles, the Ravens' remains unresoloved just 14 days before the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Miami Dolphins recently signed Chad Pennington to be their starter, and the Chicago Bears chose Kyle Orton over Rex Grossman. The San Francisco 49ers last week decided on a No. 1 quarterback, going with J.T. O'Sullivan. In Arizona, Kurt Warner will be the Cardinals' starter over Matt Leinart, reported yesterday.

And the last undecided team besides the Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, yesterday named first-round pick Matt Ryan the starter.

The Ravens had hoped Smith could take control of the job Saturday, but the former Heisman Trophy winner couldn't play because of a stomach virus. According to Harbaugh, Smith couldn't speak and remained at the team hotel to watch most of the game.


Smith's illness "pushes us back," Harbaugh said. "We knew it was a process, and you had a hope that it could get answered [Saturday] with Troy. But he didn't have an opportunity to prove that, so we're still looking to make that decision as we go."

Smith flew home with the team and should be able to play in Thursday's preseason finale.

It is still undetermined how the Ravens will handle their quarterback rotation Thursday. While starters typically play less than a quarter in the final preseason game, there is a possibility Smith could receive extended playing time.

"We got to decide and talk about it," Harbaugh said after the game. "We got to see how Kyle is doing, and we got to see how Troy is doing. That's something that we wouldn't want to make right now."

Boller injured his throwing shoulder in the second preseason game and didn't practice last week. He couldn't throw in warm-ups before Saturday's game because of the injury.

Harbaugh said he didn't know whether Boller would be healthy enough to play in the preseason finale or be ready for the regular-season opener. The injury could push Boller out of the quarterback race.


Based on the way Flacco played in the second half, the Ravens seem convinced he is headed in the right direction.

"I thought he did OK," Harbaugh said. "I thought he made some good plays. He had a chance to make a couple of big plays. I think when he looks at it on tape, he's going to feel like, 'If I just put the ball on the money, we got a chance to win the game.' Big plays are the difference in this league. And those are throws that he can make."

So, after his first preseason start, does Flacco think he could be ready to make his first regular-season start in a couple of weeks?

"I'm going to prepare myself to be ready at any time," he said. "The next time I get the opportunity, I'm going to make the best of it."

Notes: There were three injuries reported from Saturday's game: cornerback Fabian Washington (thigh), linebacker Tavares Gooden (concussion) and wide receiver Marcus Smith (shoulder). ... Saturday's game was the first for cornerback Samari Rolle since Dec. 3 against New England. "It felt different, but it was a good different," Rolle said. ... Defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs likely won't play the preseason finale after going 29 snaps Saturday. "I don't think I played too badly," Suggs said. "I'm still a little rusty ... but hopefully by Sept. 7, all the rust will be gone."

Next: Ravens vs. Falcons, Thursday, 7 p.m.


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