Smith to start against Seahawks

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Troy Smith will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks as Kyle Boller missed his second consecutive practice due to a concussion. A Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, Smith has limited experience, but has impressed the coaching staff and teammates with his presence, mobility and ability to engineer drives.

Smith has played in just four series, rushing for a touchdown and completing 8 of 16 passes for 82 yards.

"He's as ready as you're going to be as a rookie," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "One thing I don't worry about is that he has a strong personality. You worry what happens if things get ugly with him, but he will fight through whatever happens. He's a very strong-willed young man."

It's uncertain if Boller, who has been dealing with aftereffects from a concussion suffered in an overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins that includes sensitivity to light and headaches, will be able to serve as the backup for this road game. That means that undrafted rookie Cullen Finnerty, a former Division II All-American who went 51-4 at Grand Valley State (Mich.), would be the backup.

"Missing two days of practice would make it tough," Billick said regarding Boller's chances of operating as the backup.

Plus, Billick acknowledged that Smith could also start the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers because of Boller's head injury.

"We certainly aren't going to put him at risk," Billick said. "Concussions are very unpredictable. I'm certainly not an expert, so I'll rely on the experts to say what and when that could change."

Finnerty, who was signed a few weeks ago after being cut by Baltimore prior to training camp, hasn't taken many snaps in practice because the Ravens are focused on preparing Smith for his starting debut one week after manufacturing a game-tying scoring drive in a 22-16 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins.

"Cullen will be fine if he has to go into the game, he doesn't need any reps all week long," Billick said with sarcasm attached. "Troy has to take every single rep. It wouldn't be prudent not to. So, Cullen's got to pick it up visually."

Wide receiver Mark Clayton would be the emergency backup quarterback, but the Ravens hope that doomsday scenario never unfolds. "Having said that, he'll get hurt," Billick quipped. "Thank you very much."

INJURY UPDATE: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis remains a question mark for Sunday because of a dislocated finger on his left hand that required stitches and has kept him out of practice for the past few days.

The Ravens remain hopeful that Lewis will be able to play. If he can't go, then Nick Greisen will start.

"A guy like Ray, obviously we've done this a number of times, can miss a couple of days," Billick said. "What state the hand will be in, no, I don't know."

There was a noticeable drop-off defensively when Lewis left the game against the Dolphins.

"Nick Greisen is a proven player, proven veteran, so he stepped in there and did a nice job for us," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "Obviously when Ray goes down, your heart kind of drops and you think, 'Aw, man, there he goes.' So, it's not a good thing, but we're fortunate to have an outstanding backup in Nick."

Cornerback Samari Rolle, whose arm was in a sling recently due to a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the past two games, didn't practice again.

Linebackers Terrell Suggs (thigh) and Gary Stills (knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox didn't practice for the second day in a row. Fullback Le'Ron McClain was added to the injury report with a back injury, but participated fully.

QUICK HITS: Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was complimentary of rookie cornerback Josh Wilson, a former University of Maryland star who's nursing an ankle injury. "The young man is a good football player for us," Holmgren said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "I don't know if he's going to play in the game, but we'll have him back for the following week and, I think, the playoffs. I think he's got great quickness and great speed. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's a very, very competitive guy and a willing tackler. The frosting on the cake is the special-teams abilities he has as a return man." ... Lewis was voted the most intimidating defensive player in the league by 33 percent of the players who responded to a Sports Illustrated poll followed by San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman's 14 percent of the balloting. ... Billick doesn't sound like he's ready for Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden to retire after his 12th season. "I've never been a head coach without him," Billick said. "I told Jonathan, 'Why don't you stick around for a while because when you go, I should probably go with you.' So, it's one of those comfort zones that he's always been there." ... Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander is one rushing touchdown shy of 100 for his career and can move into a tie with Marshall Faulk if he scores Sunday. Alexander, who is dealing with a fractured wrist and has had a disappointing season, has been stuck at 99 touchdowns since scoring against the Philadelphia Eagles three weeks ago.

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

Ravens Insider Top Stories