Notebook: Troy Smith hopes to open eyes

WESTMINSTER -- It has been eight months since Troy Smith last played in a football game of consequence as the Heisman Trophy winner's national championship hopes were extinguished in the BCS title game by the Florida Gators. Now, the rookie quarterback is involved in a lower-profile competition as the Baltimore Ravens open the preseason tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium.

Smith is trying to fend off Drew Olson for third-string on the depth chart.

Smith is regarded as the favorite over Olson due to his draft status (final pick of the fifth-round), contract (three years, $105,000 signing bonus), college pedigree (consensus All-American, 54 career touchdowns) and superior arm strength, but he's aware he still has to prove himself in games to cement his status.

"I'm getting a chance and opportunity to be part of something special here, and it's my first Monday night football game," Smith said. "It means a lot. Getting back out there on the field just means a lot. I'm just anxious to get out there."

In the BCS title game, Smith and the Buckeyes melted down in a 41-14 blowout loss Jan. 7 as he completed just four of 14 passes for 35 yards along with an interception and fumble and was sacked five times.

Smith is expected to play more tonight than Olson, an undrafted former UCLA quarterback who spent the summer starting in NFL Europe after a year on the Ravens' practice squad. Neither player has shined during practice at McDaniel College, but their personal battle has remained friendly.

"It's competition," Smith said. "There was competition everywhere I went. I'm no stranger to that. Drew and I have known each other for a long time."

Smith completed 2 of 4 passes against the Redskins in limited action. He has alternately displayed arm strength and pocket awareness with rookie mistakes such as staring down his primary read and tipping his hand to the defense for routine interceptions.

The Ravens remain confident that Smith, who plummeted in the draft due to a lack of ideal height at 6-foot, 225 pounds), will begin opening eyes soon.

"My guess is that Troy, as is typical of his career," Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "has something about him in a game situation."

INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens are fairly healthy, but are expected to be shorthanded at a few positions. Nose guard Kelly Gregg (right thigh bruise, knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained left ankle) didn't practice Sunday and are expected to miss tonight's game.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and linebackers Dan Cody (knee surgery) and Mike Smith (shoulder surgery) remain on the physically unable to perform list.

EAGLES NOTES: Quarterback Donovan McNabb won't play tonight, Eagles coach Andy Reid announced. McNabb is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last November. Reid cited a desire to start McNabb off on natural grass.

The Ravens' field is synthetic artificial turf, although it has drawn high marks in surveys of NFL players.

Philadelphia will start A.J. Feeley at quarterback and play its starters for the entire first quarter. Rookie Kevin Kolb is expected to play the whole second half with Kelly Holcomb playing in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will be without defensive tackles Montae Reagor (knee) and Ian Scott (knee), offensive guard Shawn Andrews (ankle), free safety Brian Dawkins (heel), cornerbacks Lito Sheppard (oblique) and Dustin Fox (heel), wide receiver Bill Sampy (leg), tight end L.J. Smith and linebacker Dedrick Roper (foot).

QUICK HITS: The Ravens are watching receiver Devard Darling closely as he contends for the fourth receiver job against Clarence Moore and rookie Yamon Figurs. Darling hasn't notched a reception since his rookie season in 2004, when he caught two passes for five yards. "Devard, it's all about the games now," Billick said. "We've had plenty of practice with Devard. He's done fine. It's all about what happens with the games." ... Smith is disappointed he won't get to watch McNabb play in person. "Donovan McNabb, of course, is one of the guys that I still look up to," Smith said. "He's every bit the professional. Everything about him I totally respect."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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