No snap judgments

Competition for starting QB job begins today

Training camp

July 22, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to divulge which quarterback will take the first snaps of training camp today, but Joe Flacco has set his sights on who will be the starter at the end of it.

Flacco, the team's first-round draft pick, said only moments after signing a five-year contract that could earn him up to $30 million, including $8.75 million guaranteed, that he's ready to begin the quarterback battle.

"I'm going to go out there and act like I am [the starter], just like everybody else should do," Flacco said yesterday in the lobby of the team hotel. "I'm going to go out there and prove to the coaches, myself and my teammates that I can play. And at the end of training camp, we're going to find out."

The quarterback battle will be the buzz when Ravens training camp kicks off today for quarterbacks, rookies and injured veterans.

Just as coach John Harbaugh was taking his seat for his first news conference of camp, a reporter asked who his starting quarterback will be.

"Seriously?" Harbaugh said with a smile before diverting the conversation to the opening of camp.

A few minutes later, Harbaugh was asked which quarterback would be the first under center for team drills.

"Good thing you're coming to practice. You'll see," he said.

The safe bet is Kyle Boller will take the first snaps because he has seniority. The 2003 first-round pick has made 42 starts in five seasons.

But Flacco and Troy Smith are expected to get their shots throughout the 25-day camp.

Harbaugh said the only timetable is to decide on a starter by the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We've said this from Day One: Our plan is to go with the best quarterback at that time," Harbaugh said. "Our goal is for those guys to make that decision based on the way they play."

The Ravens drafted Flacco with the 18th overall pick because of his size (6 feet 6), arm strength and demeanor.

He then surpassed expectations during minicamps with his ability to pick up the offense. There has been talk around the team that Flacco knows the system better than Boller or Smith.

But the trend in the NFL is to sit rookie quarterbacks to allow them to learn and grow. And Flacco's youth will be part of the Ravens' decision at quarterback.

"The fact that he hasn't played an NFL game before and his long-term development, we have to factor that into the equation. That probably weighs against him," Harbaugh said. "But all those things being considered, if he's the best guy and gives us the best chance to win, he'll be the guy."

The Ravens' search for a franchise quarterback began long before Harbaugh's arrival.

The franchise had high expectations when it drafted Boller, but he failed to hold on to the starting job after struggling with consistency. Now, its hope has been placed in Flacco, who said he doesn't mind the pressure.

"Anytime you feel the way I do about yourself and about the way you play football, it doesn't bother you when other people expect you to do something," Flacco said. "I've put enough expectations on myself."

Harbaugh said the quarterback competition shouldn't be a distraction for the team, but he doesn't want this battle to become a trend for the Ravens.

"It'll probably be the last time we're ever in this situation here, I would hope, for a long time to come," he said. "It's a very unique situation, but it's a fun situation to be in. It's competition in its truest form. It's an opportunity to roll the balls out there and let guys compete for the job."

In addition to the quarterback battle, the other top story line is Harbaugh's first camp as Ravens coach.

His practices are expected to be different from those run by Brian Billick, who had lighter camps to keep his players fresh for the regular season.

"I think guys are going to work hard and they're going to get tired," Harbaugh said. "Their legs are going to get weary, because that's how you get good. The goal is not to be a fresh football team coming out of training camp, because that's impossible. The goal is to be a strong football team coming out of training camp, and that's what we're going to try to build."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Training camp

@McDaniel College; first practices: today, 8:45 a.m., 3:30 p.m.

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