With Flacco sidelined, Ryan Mallett is getting plenty of chances

Ryan Mallett is the No. 1 quarterback so long as Joe Flacco is on the sideline.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh would probably not admit any concerns – at least not publicly – about the return of Joe Flacco, even if he had some. Nor would Harbaugh ever say if he had any big worries about Ryan Mallett as the team's No. 1 quarterback, if it came to that.

After seeing Flacco running recently at the team's facility in Owings Mills, Harbaugh seems to believe the the nine-year veteran and NFL's highest-paid player will be fully recovered from major knee surgery when training camp opens in late July. Which means Mallett is still very much Plan B(ackup).

But while Flacco remains sidelined, Mallett is the man at the Ravens' offseason workouts.

A snapshot of what he showed during Tuesday's workout was exacty what his coaches have both craved and cringed at dating back to his years at Arkansas.

After rifling a few passes through ridiculously tight windows to receivers when the Ravens were practicing outside before a threat of a thunderstorm moved the team to their indoor practice field, Mallett had some issues toward the end of the workout in his decision-making and execution.

In the space of three plays, Mallett was intercepted twice on similar corner routes. A few plays later, after Mallett appeared to botch a snap from center, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman took him aside and put a hand on the quarterback's shoulder.

Yet right before practice ended, Mallett showed creativity by moving out of the pocket and lofting a perfectly-timed touch pass to second-year receiver Breshad Perriman in the clear. It was like a golfer finishing a string of practice round bogeys with a chip-in birdie on the 18th hole to set him in the right frame of mind going into the tournament.

While Harbaugh has often played down what can be surmised from OTA performances, he said that Mallett's position with the first-team offense – however temporary it might be with Flacco's expected return – should not be taken lightly by the once-maligned quarterback.

"He knows he's the starting quarterback [until Flacco returns] and these reps are valuable, valuable reps for him and his goal is to make the most of them," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens seemed confident in Mallett's abilty when they signed him to a two-year contract for a reported $1.63 million after his release from the Texans. Mallett also reportedly assured the Ravens that he had received professional help for some of the off-field issues that had previously derailed his career.

Mallett's two-game showcase with the Ravens last December was promising, though not perfect.

Yet what might be even more encouraging to the Ravens – nearly as much as when he completed 28 of 41 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in his debut – is that Mallett has appears to have matured since being released by the Texans after he missed a team's charter flight to Miami.

"He's a pro, this is not a kid, this is not a guy who I think is at at a stage of his life where we have to be putting an arm around him and working any kind of psychology or anything like that," Harbaugh said.

Mallett, who turned 28 on Sunday, will have another two practices this week and three more during next week's mandatory mini-camp to give Harbaugh even more confidence in his No. 2 quarterback before training camp opens and Flacco gets back on the field.

And as for Flacco, the team is encouraged by his progress.

"He's ahead of schedule, just as he has been," Harbaugh said. "The big thing is no setback. He's been running…I didn't know he was doing what he was doing. I didn't see him run [before]. He was running more than I thought, so that's good."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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