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Matt Schaub 'can play quarterback,' but recent years have been a struggle

Matt Schaub will be the Ravens starting quarterback following Joe Flacco's season-ending knee injury. Schaub was a Pro Bowl performer with the Houston Texans, but his career has been on steady decline in recent years.

Matt Schaub is intimately familiar with severe turns of fate. This is a guy who made the Pro Bowl in 2012 as the starting quarterback for a 12-4 team and was ushered out of Houston a year later after throwing 14 interceptions in 10 games.

Now, because of Joe Flacco's season-ending knee injury, the 12th-year quarterback will get another chance to start, this time for a team that had hoped to never have to use him.

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh and teammates quickly lined up behind Schaub, saying he'll offer the steady hand the team needs in Flacco's absence.

"Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he's going to come in, [and] he's going to play very well," Harbaugh said. "Everybody out there can talk about how he can't — those who want to consider themselves amateur evaluators — they can say what they want. It's OK, we'll rally behind Matt. We'll rally behind the rest of our running backs, because we're a football team. We are a team, and that's how we approach it."

Schaub seemed to take the startling day in stride, displaying the same low-key optimism he did during a rocky training camp this past summer.

"It's kind of a new life for me, so I'm looking forward to that opportunity to go battle with these guys and the group that we have," he said. "I've really gotten to know them well here since I came aboard in March. I'm just excited to go to work this week."

The Ravens signed Schaub to a $2 million deal in the offseason because they wanted a dependable veteran behind Flacco, who has not missed a start in his eight-year career. Schaub quickly drew criticism during training camp for tossing a succession of interceptions. Linebacker Terrell Suggs even taunted him for it during one practice.

But teammates appreciate his even demeanor and the fact he has a significant NFL track record.

"We trust in Matt," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said Sunday.

Schaub's best season came in 2009 with the Texans, when he led the league with 4,770 passing yards and threw 29 touchdowns. It was common at that time to see analysts rank him as a better quarterback than Flacco. In 2012, his last full year as a starter, he completed 64.3 percent of his passes and threw 22 touchdown passes as his Houston Texans won the AFC South.

"Matt Schaub is a veteran in this league," defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. "He's got a cannon for his arm and still has a lot of life left, and he's going to execute the best he can. We support him 100 percent."

Added cornerback Jimmy Smith: "I think he's going to go out and perform the way we want him to. I have no doubt about that. I see him in practice every day. I'm absolutely sure he can get the job done."

Schaub's receivers said they already feel in sync with him after months of practice.

"We throw every day together," tight end Crockett Gillmore said. "We're the first two out there and the last two out there. I'm very comfortable with Matt."

The 34-year-old Schaub, who attempted 10 passes as a backup for the Oakland Raiders last season, said he won't treat the coming week differently than any other.

"You have a whole week to prepare, a whole week to go through your routine," he said. "The fact is, a Monday night game with Thanksgiving falling in there, it's going to be a normal work week."

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After a dozen years in the league, four of them as a backup, he's nothing if not a pragmatist.

"It's really hard to take positives from this situation, other than getting an opportunity," Schaub said of his perspective on Flacco's injury. "You hate the circumstances, but it falls on you."

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