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Three Qbs Compete for One Spot


The Ravens may have three candidates gunning for the top quarterback spot, but each one considers it a group effort.

To Troy Smith, Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco, it's more about helping the team win and putting the best man on the field.

After practice Tuesday morning, the first training camp session under new head coach John Harbaugh, the signal-callers said all the right things.

"Any way I can help Troy [Smith] and Joe [Flacco] out, I'm going to do," Boller expained. "Everything I can do to help them out, I'm going to do because it's going to make us a better team."

"As teammates, we understand that we may need all three of us. That's the way we look at it," Smith followed up.

Said Flacco: "We're all trying to go out there and do the best we can do. It's not really anything against the other guy, it's just the nature of the position and the way it is. We're able to go out here to practice and get along and talk to each other about what went on during the play.

"I think it's a pretty good relationship."

Such sunny attitudes under center will make for an easy transition to whoever eventually earns the No. 1 spot, but while Harbaugh believes the camaraderie will be beneficial, he is quick to point out the competitiveness of his quarterbacks.

"That's just them being good guys and good sports," Harbaugh said. "Make no mistake about it, every one of those three guys wants the job. It's not really a nice guy contest. We're all nice guys, but it's a quarterbacks contest."

It is also a contest that won't start in earnest until Friday - when the remaining veterans join them at practice - even though early observations are mixed.

Each player received nearly an equal amount of snaps in seven-on-seven, nine-on-nine and red zone drills, but none of them especially stood out.

"Of course, we say that it doesn't start today and that it's hard to evaluate, but you're standing there and you're watching guys make plays and watching them handle the offense," admitted Harbaugh. "But, you're certainly not making any decisions yet."

There are many factors that will enter into the Ravens' decision.

For one, experience must be considered. Boller has 42 career starts under his belt, while Smith owns only two. Flacco, the 18th-overall pick in this year's draft, obviously has none.

"That's a lot of experience," Boller said of his resume. "When I get in there in games, it should be easy for me. I'm at that point in my career now where things should have slowed down. I think that's where I'm at."

Smith feels that he has greatly improved entering his second season in the NFL after going 1-1 last year. In addition, the former Heisman Trophy winner has a history of success at Ohio State.

"Knowing protections, knowing schemes and defenses and different schemes on different routes," he cited. "As a quarterback, your learning curve never stops. There's always so much more that you can learn because the defenses are so good nowadays, and our defense is the best."

Flacco, an unassuming rookie from Division I-AA Delaware, is soaking up all he can while displaying the obvious talents a strong-armed, 6-foot-6 quarterback brings to the gridiron.

"I just really go out there and do what I can do," Flacco said. "I don't really try to focus day by day who's doing better than the other. I just try to go out there and do the best I can do, and root on my teammates to get it done."

Ultimately, what it comes down to is how fast they can absorb offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's intricate offense, one that relies on strict timing and keeping defenses on their heels, by the time the Ravens open up against the Cincinnati Bengals Sept. 7.

"Our plan is to put the best quarterback on the field at that time, whoever that guy is," Harbaugh stated.

But, when it comes to Cameron's new offense - which Smith noted was much different than former head coach Brian Billick's - all three quarterbacks once again echoed the same message.

"You just have to get in there and be positive and try to take it day by day," Flacco summarized for the group. "Learn one thing then move onto the next, and try to gain as much knowledge as you can every day. [Cam has] been pretty good about it, and obviously it's a little bit of a challenge. But, it's nothing you're not used to as a quarterback.

"I kind of like that challenge."

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