Advertisement
News

Rookie QB Flacco officially gets nod for Ravens' opener

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was officially named the Ravens' season-opening starter yesterday, an announcement that seemed implausible just 10 days ago.

Medical issues involving the Ravens' other quarterbacks - Troy Smith (tonsil infection) and Kyle Boller (shoulder) - vaulted Flacco from last in the quarterback race to the uncontested winner.

Advertisement

"If anyone wrote this in a movie script, no one would believe it," John Harbaugh said. "The thing that is kind of exciting is that you couldn't envision this scenario. It wasn't one that we planned."

Harbaugh, the Ravens' rookie head coach, had no other option than to go with his highly touted rookie quarterback.

Advertisement

Smith, who seemed like the front-runner heading into the third preseason game, has lost 20 pounds since coming down with an illness Aug. 22. Boller, the team's most experienced quarterback, suffered a serious shoulder injury in the second preseason game and has not thrown a pass in two weeks.

That forced the Ravens to scrap any plans to bring their first-round pick along slowly. When the Ravens play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco will join the Atlanta Falcons'Matt Ryan as the NFL's only rookie starting quarterbacks to open this season.

"This is what I wanted all along," Flacco said. "Things happen funny. I've gotten my opportunity, and now it's up to me to go out there and play."

Harbaugh said he's "pretty close" to ruling out Smith and Boller for Sunday's game.

According to ESPN.com, the Ravens signed former Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington. The Ravens, who also worked out Chris Simms and Todd Bouman, wouldn't confirm any signing.

"We need a backup quarterback for the game," Harbaugh said.

It's unknown whether the addition of a free-agent quarterback is a temporary move. The Ravens likely will know by Friday whether Boller can play this season.

"It's a deal where we've got to wait a certain amount of time to see exactly what it is," Harbaugh said. "There's some medicine in there that's got to take effect."

Advertisement

Smith attended meetings yesterday after spending a couple of days in the hospital. He had trouble eating throughout his illness and looks emaciated.

The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner is sidelined indefinitely, Harbaugh said.

"He's going to be out until he gets his strength back and the infection gets cleared up," Harbaugh said.

Despite having a prime opportunity to be the season-opening quarterback taken away from him, Smith isn't about to rush back to compete for the job.

"I'm not thinking about starting at all," Smith said. "My health comes first in any situation and then my team comes."

Moments after making his announcement, Harbaugh wouldn't say whether Flacco would be given the opportunity to start the entire season.

Advertisement

The coach said he could envision scenarios in which Boller, Smith or a new quarterback could win the job during the season.

"We're really not predicting anything," Harbaugh said.

Flacco has other ideas.

"It's my plan to hold on to it as long as I can," he said. "In my eyes, it's going to be a lot of years. It's up to me to go out there and do that."

After Flacco struggled in his first two preseason games, Harbaugh essentially ruled him out of the quarterback competition. When Smith and Boller went down, Flacco showed he could hold his own in his starts, completing 52 percent of his passes (26-for-50) for 224 yards and one touchdown.

Flacco's teammates said he is ready to play immediately.

Advertisement

"He's as level-headed as any rookie I've ever seen come in," tight end Todd Heap said. "I don't think it's too big for him. Like any rookie, he's going to have to learn and learn fast. You never know - he could come in and light it up. He has that capability and he has that talent."

In preparation for the possibility of starting, Flacco spent the weekend studying tape.

When Harbaugh gave him the exciting news, Flacco reacted as he so often does in the pocket - remaining calm and showing little emotion.

"He's excited in his own Joe way," Harbaugh said.

Five months ago, the Ravens used the 18th overall pick in the draft to select Flacco and immediately named him their quarterback of the future.

In two seasons at Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision school, he completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 7,046 yards (second-most in school history), throwing 41 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Advertisement

While the Ravens really never pictured him as the season-opening starter, Flacco acknowledged yesterday that he did.

"I envisioned it," Flacco said. "I did my best to come out here and try to make it happen. I thought I got better and better each week and we got better as an offense each week. That's why we're going [to go] out there against Cincinnati and show the world what we got."

Season opener: Bengals @Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 97.9 FM,

1090 AM

Advertisement

Line: Bengals

by 1



Advertisement