Ryan Mallett surely didn't expect this.
Ultra-durable quarterback Joe Flacco has sat out all of training camp so far with a stiff back and there's been a monsoon of debate about the Ravens signing Colin Kaepernick to take over the reins if Flacco is out for an extended period.
Meanwhile, Mallett has been at Ravens practice every day taking snaps with the first-team offense. It's been an up-and-down training camp for him thus far. He got off to a slow start and was plagued by interceptions, but Mallett has seemingly turned a corner with a few strong practices and some very pretty throws.
Mallett hasn't said much amidst the media storm, but has a chance to make a strong statement with his play Thursday night in the Ravens' preseason opener against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.
With a good performance, Mallett can show the Ravens are still in good hands if Flacco is out.
"Every game is a big opportunity, every practice is a big opportunity," Mallett said Monday. "I'm just trying to get better – better in sync with my teammates, better timing, so I have tunnel vision. I'm not really worried about what's going on outside this building."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will have to figure out how much they want Mallett to play, but he will "probably play pretty extensively." He'll feel it out during the game, he said.
"Yes, it's an opportunity for Ryan to get ready," Harbaugh said. "Those reps are really huge for quarterbacks. He will want to make the most out of all those reps with the 'ones,' and we will see where it goes from there."
Mallett has proven himself when put in pressure situations before. He beat the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium in 2015. After some struggles in last offseason's practices while stepping in for Flacco as he rehabbed his knee, Mallett played well last preseason, fending off a push from Josh Johnson.
Running with the Ravens' first-team offense in the preseason is new for Mallett, however. In his 10 years, Flacco has never missed practice time this close to the start of the season.
Of course, Harbaugh wishes Flacco were on the field. "I wanted him here yesterday. I wanted him here a week ago," he said.
But the Ravens* *head coach doesn't think it will set the offense back once the regular season rolls around.
"I don't think it is going to be a problem; Joe knows the offense," Harbaugh said. "But still, there is a rhythm and chemistry and timing and execution that, really, practice is valuable for. The sooner the better, but not before he's ready."