Boller is starting over

QB gets nod in first game of preseason

Ravens

August 06, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

After being named the Ravens' starting quarterback for tomorrow night's preseason opener, Kyle Boller greeted the news with excitement but little surprise.

"I had a feeling that it might happen," Boller said after yesterday's practice.

Boller said he knew his experience would likely earn him the right to start the preseason opener.

Boller has made 42 career starts, which are 40 more than the combined total for Troy Smith and Joe Flacco.

"I think it's more of a nod to experience and seniority," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of his decision.

It wasn't a glowing vote of confidence, which reveals that the quarterback battle remains tight.

Harbaugh couched the news by hinting that another quarterback - likely Smith - would start the second preseason game.

Boller might have to distance himself from his past to become the starter entering the regular season.

The 2003 first-round draft pick has struggled to keep the starting job throughout his five-year career because of injuries and inconsistent play.

Some NFL observers have wondered whether Boller could reinvent himself after being separated from Brian Billick, who never was able to develop a young quarterback during his nine seasons as Ravens coach.

Players have noticed Boller taking more of a leadership role this season. There have been instances this training camp in which Boller has huddled his teammates together, which rarely occurred before this year.

Another change is Boller's increased sense of urgency.

"How I play in these games is going to determine who is going to be the starter," said Boller, who is in the last season of his contract. "Every one of these games is extremely important. You get very limited reps. So, you got to take advantage of every rep that you have and every throw you have. You got to do everything you can to win that job."

Harbaugh said Boller likely will go most of the first half against the New England Patriots. Smith and first-round pick Flacco will split time in the second half.

Still, Boller is going to try to psych himself up for tomorrow at New England.

"I can't put so much pressure on myself that I need to be perfect every play," Boller said. "I hope I am, but if something goes wrong, it's not the end of the world. I've got to go out and do what I know I am capable of doing."

After struggling throughout the offseason camps this spring, Boller has been the most consistent quarterback in training camp, making the high-percentage passes instead of forcing deep throws.

"I'm pleased with how I've done," Boller said. "I feel like each day gets a little bit easier. My main thing is that the things I learn in each practice. I'm not going to be perfect. There are going to be balls that I throw that maybe I don't want to throw there. But as long as I can correct them after practice ... then I'll be going in the right direction."

The 19th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Boller was the Ravens' starter for his first three seasons before accepting a backup role when the team signed Steve McNair.

In five seasons, Boller has completed 56.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 45 touchdowns with 44 interceptions.

"Every time I'm on a football field, I want to play the best football that I can," Boller said. "That ultimately doesn't matter if it's the preseason, regular season or the postseason. I'm trying to go out there and play the best that I can. I want to be the best preseason quarterback."

The stiffest competition will come from Smith.

A fifth-round pick last year, Smith was the Ravens' third-string quarterback for most of his rookie season. But injuries to McNair and Boller forced Smith to start the final two games.

His poise and confidence immediately drew praise from veteran players. The 2006 Heisman Trophy winner completed 52.6 percent of his passes last season, throwing for two touchdowns with no interceptions.

"My development is coming along, but I've still got a long way to go," Smith said. "This is an incredible offense and an incredible opportunity for this city. We're looking to win some games."

The preseason opener will mark the NFL debut of Flacco, the 18th overall pick in this year's draft.

Showing some growing pains in camp, Flacco is likely No. 3 in the quarterback race at this point. Tomorrow's game is another important step in his development.

"I'm anxious," Flacco said. "It's the first time you get a chance to step on the field at the NFL level. That's a pretty big accomplishment. I'm anxious to get it going and just see what it's like.

"I want to go out and prove to myself that I can do it at this level."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Ravens@Patriots

Preseason opener, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. TV: Ch. 11, MASN Radio: 1090 AM, 97.9 FM

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