Ravens encouraged by Boller's prognosis

OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Kyle Boller began his week of preparation for the Denver Broncos by managing the twinges of pain in his sprained left shoulder.

Although listed as questionable because of an injury to his non-throwing shoulder incurred against the Cincinnati Bengals, Boller practiced Wednesday and took the majority of the repetitions with the first offense. Former starter Chris Redman's workload increased slightly, according to offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.
Boller, who has a similar ailment to NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis, characterized his shoulder as pretty sore after a few days of not picking up a football and undergoing constant treatment. Even during interviews, Boller had a stem machine attached to stimulate healing by contracting the muscles in his left shoulder.
"Honestly, I think a little bit of pain is not that big a deal," Boller said. "I think I'll be ready to go on Sunday. I'm not going to go out there and hurt my team if I'm not ready to play.
"It was a little more painful after the game. Monday was pretty bad. It was really sore, but it's calmed down a little bit. .. The game's a long way away."
His main limitation involved a natural tendency to protect his shoulder from flapping around during throws. Not having his full range of motion, Boller was cautious to extend his shoulder only halfway up during jumping jacks.
"Kyle threw the ball pretty good," Cavanaugh said. "Obviously, he was favoring it a little bit, but he's got such a good arm he can favor the left shoulder and still throw pretty well with the right arm.
"He's just starting to get over the soreness. I gave Chris a couple reps, but I can't afford to take too many reps away from Kyle."
This could represent something of a setback for Boller if the condition worsens, or hampers his throwing motion. The first-round draft pick had mixed success against Cincinnati in Sunday's 34-26 loss marred by his three turnovers leading to three scores in the first half.
Boller mounted a comeback, passing for a career-high 302 yards, two touchdowns and a 104.2 quarterback rating. His showing lifted Baltimore (3-3) from last in the league in passing offense to No. 31 overall.
The Ravens rank first in the NFL in rushing behind Lewis' 843 yards. Lewis is listed as probable for Sunday's game against Denver (5-2), which has the No. 3 rushing game headlined by Clinton Portis.
With the injury situations at quarterback, both teams may increase their ratio of runs. The Ravens have won the last two meetings against Denver, including a 34-23 win on Monday night last season in Baltimore. Cornerback Chris McAlister returned a missed field goal 107 yards to establish an NFL record for longest return.
"Last year, we just dominated from the first whistle to the last whistle, and that's what we have to do again," safety Ed Reed said.
Boller has completed 52.6 percent of his passes for 845 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions for an AFC-low 58.7 rating, up from 48.9.
He's no longer the lowest-rated passer in the league, though, ranking ahead of Detroit's Joey Harrington (56.8), Chicago's Kordell Stewart (56.0) and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb (51.1).
"I think we kind of got in a rhythm," Boller said. "I think the receivers trusted me and I trusted the receivers. We've just got to make sure we're not one-hit wonders."
After Bengals defensive end Justin Smith tossed him to the ground in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Boller was in obvious pass.
He waved off help from the sidelines and handed off to Chester Taylor for a touchdown on the ensuing play, finding tight end Todd Heap for two more points on a pass.
"You're got to learn the difference between injury and pain," Heap said. "I'm not worried about Kyle."
Meanwhile, former starter Chris Redman is readying himself just in case Boller falters. Redman threw an incompletion in his only pass of the season against the Cleveland Browns when Boller had a slight knee injury.
Last season, Redman compiled a 3-3 mark as a starter before aggravating a back injury, undergoing surgery and losing a training camp competition with Boller. Redman came in on his day off earlier this week, throwing passes to office personnel.
"I'm not as sharp as I can be, but I'm as mentally sharp as I've ever been," Redman said. "It's a business and you have to be ready to adjust. My dad always told me to make the best of any situation."
Compared to the Broncos' quarterback quandary, the Ravens have an enviable situation.
Because starter Jake Plummer has a broken foot and veteran Steve Beuerlein was placed on injured reserve this week with a broken pinkie finger, Denver is down to third-string passer Danny Kanell.
A former New York Giants starter, Kanell last played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2001 before two years out of the game interrupted by stints for the Arena Football League's New York Dragons and minor-league baseball's Newark Bears.
Denver signed Jarious Jackson as a backup and will only bring two quarterbacks to Baltimore. Boller said he was a freshman in high school when Kanell was drafted out of Florida State.
Denver coach Mike Shanahan said receiver Rod Smith is actually his emergency signal-caller. He quipped that offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, a former backup to John Elway, can still throw fairly well.
"It's very strange," former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "I don't think in my 14 years that I have ever been in a situation where you had to use your third-string quarterback, but now we are forced to use ours. We don't make excuses."

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