Head coach John Harbaugh ended the mystery at Ravens training camp today, naming Kyle Boller the starting quarterback in Thursday's preseason opener.
The six-year veteran gets the nod over Troy Smith and rookie Joe Flacco against the New England Patriots.
While each candidate will receive a similar amount of snaps over the four preseason contests, Boller's 42 career starts and tenure in a Ravens' uniform were Harbaugh's deciding factors.
"I think it's more of a nod to experience and seniority," said the coach. "We're going to balance those guys' reps out through training camp. You're going to give one guy most of one game and another guy most of another game and make sure Joe gets his reps through the two games, and Kyle's been here, so he gets the first game."
At this point, none of Baltimore's quarterbacks have shined particularly brighter than the rest.
Smith came to Westminster, Md., as the favorite after a solid showing in offseason minicamps. But, Boller's has been playing it safe with high-percentage passes, demonstrating his commitment to mistake-free football.
Boller isn't letting the pressure of having two hungry signal-callers looking over his shoulder affect him, however.
"I just go out there and play football," he said. "I can't put so much pressure on myself to say I have to be perfect on every play. I hope I am, but something goes wrong, it's not the end of the world.
"I just have to go out there and take it one play at a time and do what I know I'm capable of doing. That is executing, putting the ball in my playmakers' hands and having some fun."
The Ravens are still far from naming a regular-season starter, but Boller thinks his familiarity with the pro game was one reason he can come out on top.
A former first-round draft pick (19th overall in 2003), Boller has seen action in 53 games, but was relegated to backup duty when the Ravens added Steve McNair in 2006. When McNair went down with groin and back injuries last season, Boller repeatedly stepped in and showed flashes of success.
"I have a bunch of starts under my belt and have seen a lot of game experiences, so I should be able to go out there and have fun," Boller explained. "This isn't my first preseason game; it's my sixth year. I just want to go out there and have fun with my guys, doing all the things we work on here at practice to do."
The Burbank, Calif. native had one of his best outings of 2007 versus the Patriots, going 15-of-23 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception as the Ravens nearly ended New England's undefeated streak.
"They got it in the end," Boller said of the Patriots' thrilling come-from-behind 27-24 victory, "but we definitely had a great game against them, and hopefully that will continue Thursday night."
Over his career, Boller has completed 56.9 percent of his attempts for 7,846 yards, 45 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. He owns a 71.9 quarterback rating.
Here are some more notes and observations from Tuesday's practices, the second of which was a special teams session:
- Many typical starters were absent Tuesday, including cornerbacks Chris McAlister (knee) and Samari Rolle (family matter), running back Willis McGahee (knee), linebackers Ray Lewis (undisclosed) and Bart Scott (undisclosed), offensive tackles Jared Gaither (ankle) and Adam Terry (ankle), tight end Todd Heap (undisclosed), wideout Mark Clayton (shoulder), and defensive tackles Kelly Gregg (knee), Trevor Pryce (undisclosed) and Haloti Ngata (MCL).
Ngata was seen doing individual work on the far field, the most action he's seen since spraining his MCL early in training camp. Ngata ran sprints and hit a blocking sled. Scott was on the field for the beginning portion in his uniform, but walked off and did not return minutes into the session.
Also not practicing were running back P.J. Daniels (undisclosed), safety Ed Reed (undisclosed), linebackers Dan Cody (foot) and Gary Stills (undisclosed), wideouts Patrick Carter (shoulder) Demetrius Williams (leg), and tight ends Daniel Wilcox (foot) and Aaron Walker (knee).
Linebacker Terrell Suggs continues to stay away from training camp because he hasn't signed his franchise tender.
- Flacco got frustrated when he overthrew wideout Derrick Mason cutting over the middle. The rookie let out a loud shout, chastising himself for the poor throw. Mason was quick to run back to Flacco and take the blame, saying, "My bad, Joe."
Flacco also nearly got intercepted by safety Dawan Landry when he threw to Marcus Smith downfield and Smith prematurely put his hands down, perhaps thinking Flacco was going for another receiver. The ball fell out of Landry's hands, and the safety promptly dropped for 10 pushups.
- When the linebackers and running backs faced off in a coverage drill, coach Greg Mattison challenged offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's group by matching up the three best players on each side.
The linebackers were Nick Greisen, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Tavares Gooden. Cameron chose Allen Patrick, Ray Rice and Cory Ross.
On the first play, Patrick slipped by Griesen, but Troy Smith overthrew the open running back. Griesen protested when he was flagged for holding.
Then, Ross juked by Ayanbadejo on a double move, but Mattison declared it a sack when Smith had too much time in the pocket.
Finally, Rice took off sprinting past Gooden, and Flacco served up a perfect pass, earning a victory for the offense in the event.
- Pass of the morning came from Smith. The second-year quarterback threw a 60-yard bomb to Kerry Reed, who leapt over cornerback David Pittman. Pittman and/or Reed tipped the ball, but Reed kept his concentration and hauled in the reception to the delight of spectators.
- The only added information Harbaugh gave about who would and would not play in New England was that Rolle and McGahee will not suit up. Rolle will need a few days to practice after rejoining the team Monday, while McGahee's knee still requires rest.
"[McGahee has] just got the knee," Harbaugh. "We decided to take about a week and work the knee and strengthen it and get the swelling down and get him back after this game."
- The Ravens passed the 50,000 fan mark at training camp, ending Tuesday with 56,195 attendees on McDaniel College's fields. Tuesday morning, the Ravens welcomed 6,205 fanatics to Westminster, the second-highest amount of this year's camp. The top number of 9,025 fans was reached on Friday, July 25, the first full-team session.
In addition, Monday's atendance totaled 6,150 fans, third-best of 2008.
For Wednesday:The Ravens will hold a walk-thru at McDaniel that is closed to the public and media before flying to Providence, RI, for their preseason opener. Players then have off Friday before resuming action at 8:45 a.m and 2:00 p.m. (special teams) Saturday, Aug. 9.