Smith Starting Caliber?

34307cadfd2a4ca7a9335f0222f7b920.jpg


The Ravens have always regularly said that they have two quarterbacks on their roster - Joe Flacco and Troy Smith - that could start in the NFL.

Now that he is entering the final season of a three-year contract, Smith hopes other teams see that, as well.

Not that he's worrying about it, though.

Smith, who enters the offseason as Baltimore's clear-cut No. 2 after Kyle Boller signed with the St. Louis Rams last weekend, has been a regular at the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, simply concentrating on what he and his team can accomplish on the field.

"All throughout my collegiate career, I was taught to just hush up and do my job," said the Ohio State product and former Heisman Trophy winner. "I think hard work pays off. Being a professional, there are certain things that you deal with concerning contracts, but I can't do that."

Smith, 24, believes that he is in a great opportunity to do just that. Perhaps not perfect, because if it were, he would be starting over Flacco.

But, with the creative mind of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and attentive prodding from quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, Smith is regularly put in situations of which other backup signal callers would be jealous.

Consider last season, Cameron's first on the job.

It was a Week 8 matchup with the Oakland Raiders when Flacco surprisingly split out wide and Smith slid under center.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs had playfully suggested earlier in the week that Smith should get more shots on the field, so the formation was playfully deemed the "Suggs Package."

Perhaps even more surprisingly, it succeeded.

"Without a doubt, Cam's mind is always working," Smith explained. "He wants to win games and put this team in a position to let the best players play at all times. He puts us in situations to where we can be one the field, and if we can be productive, then let's do it."

Smith rushed three times for 13 yards, but his biggest play - maybe the one play that stands out in the minds of most Ravens fans from 2008 - was a 43-yard bomb to Flacco along the left sideline. Flacco, all 6-foot-6, 230 pounds of him, sprinted past a Raiders defender and managed to haul in the pass as he fell to the turf.

"As soon as I saw that he had even an inch on that guy, I was going to give him a chance to do it," stated Smith. "In practice, it's always a mediocre-speed kind of play, but Joe was moving. He was pumping his arms, and my thing was just to complete the pass to him. He did a good job of catching it."

Smith saw action in five more games during the regular season and one in Baltimore's playoff run to the AFC Championship. He ended the year completing 3 of 4 passes for 82 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown to Todd Heap against the Houston Texans. Smith also had 9 rushes for 24 yards.

It may have been a minimal amount of playing time, but more that others in his position typically receive.

"Cam puts us in good situations to make plays, as does Hue Jackson," Smith said. "The role that Hue plays getting the quarterback ready doesn't get talked about enough."

He continued: "If my role is to be on the sideline doing something to help Joe and this offense, then that's what I'll do. But, if I can get in there and help a little bit, I'll do just that."

Of course, Smith's second season could have gone much differently were it not for some extenuating circumstances.

Coming out of the preseason, Smith was essentially slated to be the 2008 starter when Boller went on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury and Ravens coaches wanted a rookie Flacco to continue his development. Unfortunately for him, Smith was diagnosed with severe tonsillitis when Baltimore was in St. Louis for its third preseason contest and eventually suffered a blood clot in his lungs.

It took him weeks before he was fully recovered, and Flacco became one of the NFL's hottest young passers.

Smith knows he can still start, however. He helmed the Ravens' offense for two games in 2007, tossing a season-long 79-yard touchdown to Derrick Mason in Week 16 and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season finale.

Ever the humble team-first guy and stoic leader, Smith defers all credit to his coaches and fully supports Flacco. And while most NFL players would worry about their playing time or contract situation, Smith is turning his focus inward.

"The battle with my lungs and the severe tonsillitis has gone away and now it's just getting ready for the season," Smith said.

"I just have to stay like a horse with blinders on and continue to get better."

**

Can Troy Smith be a starting quarterback in the NFL? Tell us what you think! **

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising