Smith may start against Seahawks

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Troy Smith is preparing to make his first NFL start due to Kyle Boller suffering lingering effects from a concussion that could force him out of Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State took all of the snaps with the first-team offense Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Boller didn't practice and was sent home following meetings because he's still experiencing headaches and sensitivity to light stemming from a violent hit delivered by defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday during a 22-16 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins.

"If it's still bothering him tomorrow, I would probably go ahead and start Troy," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who declared Monday that Boller would remain in the lineup if he recovered in time. "But we'll see how he feels."

The Ravens and Smith don't lack for confidence in his ability to lead the offense. Especially after Smith nearly rallied the Ravens (4-10), who are mired in an unprecedented eight-game losing streak, to a victory in relief of Boller in Miami.

"It was like a breath of fresh air," offensive guard Jason Brown said.

Smith's charisma, improvisational skills as he completed most of his passes on the move and ability to escape pressure sparked a dormant offense.

The fifth-round draft pick engineered a game-tying, 59-yard drive in the final seconds of regulation and helped position the Ravens for a potential game-winning field goal in overtime. However, kicker Matt Stover missed a 44-yard attempt following a high snap and the Dolphins scored on their subsequent drive.

Smith doesn't lack belief in himself, displaying the swagger that goes with passing for 54 career touchdowns and 5,720 yards with just 13 interceptions for the Buckeyes. He threw a school-record 30 touchdowns during his final year on campus, and won two career Big Ten titles.

"Confidence with me has never really been a problem because I don't have anything to prove," Smith said. "I don't have anything to prove to anybody, just the guys in this locker room and me getting better as a quarterback.

"What I bring to the table is somebody with an incredible passion for the game. Definitely been put into a couple situations to where your passion has to show, and that's what kind of player I am."

Due to Smith's bold personality, the Ravens aren't as concerned as they would typically be with inserting a rookie into the starting lineup alongside a bevy of veterans.

"He's not going to be intimidated," Billick said. "He's been in a lot of big games, so I don't worry about that."

Wide receiver Derrick Mason said that Smith doesn't carry himself like a raw rookie. Smith, who scrambled six yards for a touchdown during his NFL regular-season debut against the Indianapolis Colts, has made a strong first impression.

"Troy is a football player, and that's all I really care about," Mason said. "That's why he was considered the best football player in college football, that's why he won the Heisman and it's no different here. He doesn't flinch regardless of what the situation is.

"Against Miami, he came out there like he had been in the league eight, nine years and drove us down the field and we were able to put some points on the board. It's no surprise to me and it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody else because every time he's had an opportunity, he's risen above it."

Although Smith's statistics are not particularly impressive, completing 8 of 16 passes for 82 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 65.1 quarterback rating, the Ravens' praise is centered primarily on his intangibles and pocket presence.

Smith, who's listed at 6-foot, 225 pounds, saw his stock plummet in the draft due to concerns about his height, accuracy and a few past off-field issues. The Ravens aren't worried about his lack of ideal size, though.

"He's a talented young man, the only thing he's missing is the height, but, other than that, he can do it all," running back Willis McGahee said. "He can read, he can throw the ball. He can scramble, he can be elusive.

"He's a winner. This is his first big-time game in the NFL, so I have every bit of confidence in him."

Mason commented that Smith "looked very good" during his initial practice with the first offense, and Smith added: "For the first time around, it was cool."

However, the last high-profile game Smith started didn't go as planned.

In the BCS national championship game against the Florida Gators a year ago, Ohio State lost the Fiesta Bowl,41-14, and Smith had a disastrous game. He completed just four of 14 passes for 35 yards along with an interception and a fumble as he was sacked five times.

"Stepping into this situation and getting a chance to play at the highest level, you have to have the highest level of professionalism, the highest level of being a man, being an athlete," Smith said. "I'll definitely be comfortable, hopefully. But you never know. I can't see into the future.

"I can't let you know how I'll feel on Sunday because I won't know until Sunday comes. I'm trying to get ready for the Seahawks in an even-keel manner."

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

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