Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer fans' questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail email@example.com. Provide your name and phone number so we can verify the e-mail.
HEY, JAMISON: : This has nothing to do with Sunday's game. But could you tell me how teams like Indianapolis, New England, Washington, Dallas and others never seem to be in salary cap trouble yet we always hear the Ravens are at or just below the cap? Are they playing angles that we're not?
Mike Roslan, Richmond, Va.
HEY, MIKE: : Those teams have the same salary cap troubles as the Ravens. The Washington Redskins, who have constantly delayed their cap hit for years, were roughly $16 million over the cap this offseason. The Ravens were in much better shape, with $3.3 million in cap room.
After going through that huge purge in 2002, the Ravens have done a solid job of building a team without digging the same hole. They have signed Ed Reed and Todd Heap to extensions and added veterans such as Trevor Pryce, Willis McGahee (through trade) and Derrick Mason. But none of these moves have forced the Ravens to cut multiple veterans later.
The best teams are the ones that are the most prudent with their cap space. The past three Super Bowl champions - the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers - signed one free agent in the offseason leading up to their title run.
HEY, JAMISON: : On Page 135 of John Feinstein's Next Man Up book about the Ravens, Ray Lewis remarked that Ted Marchibroda's hard practices wore down the players, so that in the fourth quarter, the Ravens of 1996-1998 were worn down and games were lost. Will fourth-quarter collapses continue this year, and by December will it only get worse because of our new coach's harder practice schedule? It's a shame because the offensive line, likely quarterback and offensive coordinator are so much improved.
James Adam, White Marsh
HEY, JAMES: : We have to keep some perspective here. John Harbaugh's practices are harder and longer than the ones conducted by former coach Brian Billick. But Harbaugh's workouts don't resemble the old-school ones under Marchibroda, who had his players put on pads and hit throughout the week.
Harbaugh wants to instill a tougher mind-set with his team, and that starts in practice. But Harbaugh is smart. He isn't going to wear out his team just to make a point.
In training camp, Harbaugh backed off the rough practices when injuries riddled the team. In November, when the Ravens should have had their bye, he will alter the structure of some practices to lighten the load.
HEY, JAMISON: : Big Ohio State fan. What is Troy Smith's status/health? Will he get a chance to start, so Flacco can learn a little more? It is clear Flacco has talent, but is he making the right decisions?
Jim Neff, Dayton, Ohio
HEY, JIM: : Smith is making strides every week. After losing 20 pounds because of the viral infection, he's starting to look more like himself in the locker room these days. Smith is suiting up for games again, and he'll be the No. 3 quarterback Sunday.
But Harbaugh has made it clear - and rightfully so - that Flacco will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Smith will have a chance to compete only with Todd Bouman for the backup job. Despite his recent mistakes, Flacco remains the best quarterback on the team.
The coaches might have considered Smith under different circumstances (if the Ravens were 0-4 and Flacco was getting hit unmercifully in games). But it has been the opposite. In four games, Flacco has proved he is more polished than Smith. It was the correct move to reward Flacco with the starting job.