It's his first NFL regular-season start in 23 months, yet Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub insists that he's preparing for Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns in the same manner that he approached being Joe Flacco's backup over the previous 11 weeks.
Schaub, 34, understands that might be hard to believe. However, when you've gone from a Pro Bowl quarterback to being traded by one team and released by another, all in the span of a couple of years, you learn a little bit about keeping things in perspective along the way.
"It's been frustrating for me, disappointing, the last two years. But that's the nature of this game," Schaub said. "You're going to have parts of your career where there's going to be adversity within a game, within a drive, within a season. It's how you respond to the adversity, whether it's a peak in the good times or hey, if there are some down years, down time, how do you handle that? I've tried to handle those situation the same regardless of the good times or bad."
When the Ravens (3-7) got back to work Wednesday in preparation for the Browns (2-8), Schaub was running the first-team offense, rather than leading the scout team. It created somewhat of an odd scene, given that Joe Flacco not only hasn't missed a game over the previous seven-plus seasons but you'd have to think long and hard about the last time the Super Bowl-winning quarterback even missed a practice before Wednesday.
But with Flacco out for the rest of the season after tearing up his knee late in Sunday's victory over the St. Louis Rams, this is the Ravens' new reality.
"It's crazy, but that happens in football," Ravens rush linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "You play long enough that your number gets called, but we've got a great belief in Matt Schaub."
Ever since Flacco went down, the Ravens have rallied around Schaub, the 12th-year quarterback who made the Pro Bowl team with the Houston Texans in 2009 and 2012, and has thrown for 24,311 yards in his NFL career.
"You've all got to understand, Matt's had a lot of success in this league, so we're very comfortable and confident with him," wide receiver Kamar Aiken said. "Obviously, he's not Joe, but at the same time he's had a lot of success. We're comfortable and we're just going on with the plan."
Right guard Marshal Yanda said Schaub will allow the Ravens to "keep rolling." Ravens coach John Harbaugh has acknowledged that there won't be too many changes to the offense, though offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will obviously emphasize the plays with which Schaub is most comfortable.
"You can definitely feel when he commands the huddle, you can tell he's been there before and obviously he's played at a really high level," Yanda said. "You can notice that in the huddle when he's calling the plays. He's confident calling the plays and managing the huddle."
Schaub, though, faces many questions about his arm strength and decision-making as he prepares to make his first start since Dec. 29, 2013, when he turned the ball over three times in the Texans' 16-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
In 21 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he has 10 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. He lost his starting job with the Texans in 2013, but not before enduring one stretch where he had an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games.
A trade to the Oakland Raiders before the 2014 season did little to steady his career as he was beaten for the starting job by rookie Derek Carr. Largely in mop-up duty for the Raiders, Schaub completed only five of his 10 passing attempts and had two passes intercepted in 11 games.
After losing Flacco's longtime backup, Tyrod Taylor, in free agency, the Ravens signed Schaub to a one-year, $2 million deal. They then watched him struggle in training camp, so much so that teammate Terrell Suggs once reminded the quarterback what team he was supposed to be throwing to. In limited preseason action, Schaub threw two interceptions and was sacked five times.
However, Ravens players insist that they've seen a much different quarterback in practices over the past couple of months.
"I see him prepare every day, see him practice every day, see the balls he's throwing — you can start with that," Harbaugh said. "There are plenty of track records for Matt Schaub. This is not a guy that has never played before. It's not a guy who nobody has ever seen. He has a track record in this offense, too, and he's a professional. I know one thing: I come in here about 5:30 in the morning, and many times he's walking right in with me. He's a worker."
When he stepped behind the microphone following Wednesday's practice, Schaub joked, "It's been a while." Otherwise, he vowed to keep things as normal as possible this week.
"It feels a little different, the fact that I'm getting live reps with our offense as opposed to the [scout] team for the defense. That's the difference, and the meetings, the way you're approaching everything mentally," Schaub said. "But as far as how the week goes, it's the same. You're always one play away. It just so happens we're at that point. So, the difference is just physically getting the reps out here in practice."
Schaub did acknowledge that the past couple of days have been a whirlwind, and as bad as he feels for Flacco, he has been invigorated by the opportunity. Over the past two years, there have been times where it wasn't clear if Schaub would ever get another chance to lead an offense.
Now, that he has that chance, Schaub knows that there's some outside skepticism about how he'll perform. In front of a "Monday Night Football" audience, he can answer a lot of the critics.
"There's a little bit of that, because that just goes with the proving yourself every day in this business, and proving [to] the league and proving your teammates and the coaches and the organization that brought you in that they were right in bringing you in," Schaub said. "That's all part of that. That's what kind of motivates you as a player. I'm excited to get that opportunity."
Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.