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News » Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-09-05

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-09-05

Baltimore Ravens Inside Slant 2008-09-05
The Ravens will be starting a new era with coach John Harbaugh, but their biggest concern isn't their rookie head coach.

This season is looking more like a rebuilding year after the Ravens named rookie Joe Flacco their starting quarterback for the opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens initially wanted to bring Flacco along slowly and avoid rushing him like they did Kyle Boller five years ago. But the Ravens didn't have a choice.

Medical issues to the Ravens' other quarterbacks -- Troy Smith (tonsil infection) and Kyle Boller (shoulder) -- vaulted Flacco from last in the quarterback race to the uncontested winner.

"I'm a lot more prepared now than I was then," said Flacco, referring to his development since the preseason opener. "I've had a lot more experience and worked with the guys a lot more. It will be a lot of fun. We can't wait to get out there Sunday and show what our offense is all about."

Smith, who seemed like the front-runner heading into the third preseason game, has lost 20 pounds since coming down with an illness on Aug. 22. Boller, the team's most experienced quarterback, was placed on injured reserve with a serious shoulder injury.

That left Flacco as the only healthy quarterback on the 53-man roster when the week began. When the Ravens play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco will join Atlanta's Matt Ryan as the NFL's only rookie starting quarterbacks to open this season.

"This is what I wanted all along," Flacco said. "Things happen funny. I've gotten my opportunity, and now it's up to me to go out there and play."

Moments after making his announcement, Harbaugh wouldn't say whether Flacco would be given the opportunity to start the entire season.

The coach said he could envision scenarios where Smith or a new quarterback could win the job during the season.

"We're really not predicting anything," Harbaugh said.

Flacco has other ideas.

"It's my plan to hold onto it as long as I can," he said. "In my eyes, it's going to be a lot of years. It's up to me to go out there and do that."

After Flacco struggled in his first two preseason games, Harbaugh essentially ruled him out of the quarterback competition. When Smith and Boller went down, Flacco showed he could hold his own in his starts, completing 52 percent of his passes (26-for-50) for 224 yards and one touchdown.

In preparation for the possibility of starting, Flacco spent the weekend studying tape.

When Harbaugh gave him the exciting news, Flacco reacted like he so often does in the pocket -- remaining calm and showing little emotion.

"He's excited in his own Joe way," Harbaugh said.

Five months ago, the Ravens used the 18th overall pick in the draft to select Flacco and immediately named him their quarterback of the future.

In two seasons at Division I-AA Delaware, he completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 7,046 yards (second most in school history), throwing 41 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

While the Ravens really never pictured him as the season-opening starter, Flacco acknowledged that he did.

"I envisioned it," Flacco said. "I did my best to come out here and try to make it happen. I thought I got better and better each week and we got better as an offense each week. That's why we're going out there against Cincinnati and show the world what we got."

SERIES HISTORY: 25th meeting. Ravens lead series, 13-11. The Bengals have won the last three meetings, including a season sweep last season. In their last meeting in Baltimore, the Bengals beat the Ravens, 21-7. In his last start for the Ravens, quarterback Steve McNair committed three of the Ravens' six turnovers (two fumbles and one interception) and failed to lead a scoring drive. Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham converted seven field goals.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 6, 2008

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