Smith wins third-string QB derby

OWINGS MILLS -- The competition to become the Baltimore Ravens' third-string quarterback is officially over with Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith declared the winner Monday as Drew Olson was cut from the team. Even with Olson's departure leaving Smith alone behind starter Steve McNair and backup Kyle Boller, the former Ohio State star is far from entrenched as far as making the active roster.

"What still has to be determined is if we'll carry two or three quarterbacks on the active roster," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Last year, we carried two. Decisions have to be made.

"Drew was with us last year. He's a good, young man. I think he has a future, but we had to make a decision and decided to see how it would play out with Troy."

The Ravens could always try to sneak Smith, who was signed to a three-year contract that included a $105,000 signing bonus, through waivers and then place him on the practice squad. It's unclear how much interest there would be in Smith around the league.

As the last pick of the fifth round, Smith has tried to ease concerns about his 6-foot, 225-pound size by flashing impressive arm strength. However, he has struggled with his accuracy and timing.

Smith, who has been friends with Olson since high school, wasn't exactly celebrating the end of a clipboard quarterback derby that seemed preordained to end this way. He was subdued after practice at the Ravens' training complex.

"I just gave Drew a call to see what time we were coming in, and he told me they had released him," Smith said. "It was a shock to me. Guys you slapped fives with might not even be here. You never know. It's an incredible business aspect. You have to respect it.

"I never really had any feelings about it and I still don't. To me, it's not declaring somebody as a winner. They make decisions in the front office we can't change. Drew's a great friend of mine, he's going to continue to be a friend of mine. We've got a football season to prepare for and that's what I'm going to do."

Olson, who honed his skills in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals earlier this year after spending last season on the Ravens' practice squad, had the superior statistics as he completed 7 of 9 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in a 29-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and went 1 for 4 for 6 yards in a 13-12 loss to the New York Giants. The former UCLA standout leaves the team with the highest preseason quarterback rating on the team (107.9) on 8 of 13 accuracy and no interceptions.

While Smith completed just 3 of 11 passes for 34 yards against Philadelphia, he directed two scoring drives against the Giants and completed 4 of 8 passes for 60 yards.

Ultimately, the decision came down to the organization deeming Smith to be a better overall athlete and prospect than Olson.

"You just know there's loads and loads of potential there," offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel said. "It's difficult in the short time that we've been with him to get all that out of him, especially because he's trying to indoctrinate himself into a new offense, new terminology and all that kind of stuff. We made the decision to bank on the huge upside that Troy has."

For Smith, who threw 54 career touchdown passes at Ohio State before his draft stock plummeted following a disastrous BCS title game loss to the Florida Gators, life in the NFL continues to be a major adjustment.

The biggest problem for Smith, who has completed just 36.8 percent of his passes (7 for 19) for 94 yards and a 53.4 quarterback rating, has been reducing the velocity on his throws and learning how to aim the football to an assigned spot.

"I still feel like I need to get better," Smith said. "I'm going to continue my growth as a quarterback. I just need to worry about what I can control and that's getting better as a man and as an athlete. It's not going to be a huge leap. It's going to be in inklings, notch by notch, day by day.

"I'm going to continue to compete every day. The only person I have something to prove something to is myself. As long as I'm constantly on my own kind of incline, hopefully good things will come."

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

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