Ravens' quarterback watch

WESTMINSTER -- Our latest deluxe edition of Baltimore Ravens quarterback watch as we observe the competition between Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco.

Troy Smith

Positives: Hit Derrick Mason in stride for a 40-yard touchdown pass, splitting Frank Walker and Tom Zbikowski. Building chemistry with his receivers, including rookie Justin Harper. Starting to identify his targets quickly.

Negatives: Displayed little touch or timing on two overthrown fade routes in a red-zone drill. Fumbled one of his first snaps under center.

Stock: Starting to rise as he resembles the swaggering quarterback who built momentum during minicamps to emerge as the early favorite to start the opener.

Kyle Boller

Positives: Mostly steady, cutting down on his interceptions. Did a better job of looking off receivers in his progressions. Darting the football into tight corners to a small target: rookie runner Ray Rice.

Negatives: Needs to recognize the pass rush quicker and get rid of the football, exit a collapsing pocket or chew out his struggling offensive line. Throws off his back foot too often.

Stock: Holding steady as his strategy seems to be to take a cautious approach and not push the envelope.

Joe Flacco

Positives: Hit Marcus Smith on a 60-yard bomb. Throws the best passes of the three candidates. Mobility is advanced for his size.

Negatives: First pass in full-team drills was intercepted by linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. Picked off later by Ronnie Prude. Telegraphing some throws, needs to anticipate defensive adjustments.

Stock: Bell curve hasn't dipped up or down recently. Taking the least reps with the starting offense.

Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan

On how camp has been so far: "I'm doing great. Shoot, it's been beautiful out. Had a great day for football, that's for sure. Weather has been outstanding."

On the competition at camp: "First of all, you've got to identify your best players. Every day is an opportunity to compete for everybody. We're trying to get our communication nailed down. There are some things that we never did quite as well last year that we're trying to fix, and we're trying to teach. Every day we come out with an attitude that we're going to get better, and that's the type of thing that you really look to do. I think we're physical enough; I don't doubt that. I think we have great competition, especially at the corner spot. Guys are fighting to get on the field. We have some outstanding players. We're deep this year. Everything looks good and I can't wait for it to really kick off so everyone can see what we have."

On the cornerback position: "There's competition from starting corner all the way down. Right now, Samari is not here, unfortunately, with his father passing. So right now this is an opportunity for someone to step up. Right now, someone is running with that starting group, and anytime that happens, you have to raise your level of play. We always say around here that if a starter goes down, you have to play at his level or better, and that's what we're looking to find out."

On DE Trevor Pryce: "He looks tall to me (laugher). No, he looks outstanding. It's amazing all the years he's played, and yet he's a little kid or a young man mentality-wise and what shape he's in. It reminds me of when Bruce Matthews was with Houston all those years. He played 20 years and he looked like a young guy still, and that's the way Trevor has been. Obviously, you've got the premier interior pass rusher in the game and that's Trevor Pryce, and he's a pretty darn good run player as well."

On OLB Jarret Johnson: "I think with Jarret, you're seeing that he has another year. Everybody might recall that it took [Adalius Thomas] until we played him at outside linebacker for a season and moved him to defensive end. And then the next year he came back and elevated his play. And I think you're seeing that with Jarret, too. He's never dropped back in his life. We all love his physicality and his aggressiveness, but his coverage was OK last year. But now, it's really getting good this year. He's really understanding route concepts better. We're excited. Of course you know you're going to get one of the premier outside run players in Jarret, and now as a pass defender, he's really getting good."

On Pryce's importance to the defense: "It means everything. The frustrations last year were more that we won the five games and we lose a guy like Trevor Pryce and then we were like everybody else in the league. We never had a Trevor Pryce. He's a rare guy. Like I say, he's the premier inside pass rusher in the game. So obviously when you lose a player like that, even though our mentality is that we're going to stay the same, reality might be a little different."

On CB Chris McAlister: "Like anything, he had some swelling. He went back to Samari's dad's funeral and had some swelling from the plane trip, which happens, but Chris is fine. I love it because he's working through it and he's doing an outstanding job. It's good to see a smile on his face, and when he runs out there I feel pretty confident."

On the return of S Ed Reed: "You'd have to ask [John Harbaugh] that and Bill [Tessendorf]. I really don't know. I know one thing is that Ed is working his tail off out here. He took David Pittman under his wing and he's working him out and getting him right, and he's working just as hard as he can possibly work. But whenever we get him, Ed will be ready. Mentally, in the meeting rooms he's really taking that leadership over. He's making all the calls and he's sharp. It's just about when he can return due to physical play."

On dealing with injuries last year: "Well, we're not just going to run the same thing if our four corners are out. Every team would be weaker. And that's no slam on the guys that were in there, it's just the facts of life. You're trying to replace some Pro Bowl type talent at corner, and it's hard to do that. But hey, we're going to see. We'll show it; we don't have to talk about it. Just bring it on. We play all the teams this season, with the exception of New England in the regular season. We've got the NFC East and the AFC South and we've got our division, which I think is the toughest. The AFC North is all top-10 offenses, so we'll see what happens."

On rookie S Haruki Nakamura: "Haruki looks great. All those safeties – Jim Leonhard, Nakamura and [Tom] Zbikowski – we're impressed with all those guys. We knew that when the pads came on those guys were going to really shine. I think Haruki has got, I don't know how many interceptions, but the ball finds him. And it's funny, but the same guys are always getting lucky. You guys might see him out here, and he looks kind of like a Will Demps, but faster."

DE Trevor Pryce

On what it takes to play at his elite level: "I think if you play corner in high school and you're the right size, you can pretty much figure it out (laughter). It's more athletic ability than anything else. I ran track in high school and do really odd things that people my size shouldn't do. You have to be given this. My uncle is an athlete and my dad is an athlete and then I drank a lot of milk… I have no idea. Flintstones vitamins or what, I have no idea. I just make it up as I go along."

On putting last year's injury behind him: "Did I get hurt last year? That's how far it is behind me. I'm not even looking at 10 minutes ago. You have to move on – at this game, the pro game – I've been moving forward, forward, forward. If you look back, you wind up missing what's in front of you."

On feeling his age: "I don't, in a way. Physically I don't. I train so hard, and the stuff that I did this past offseason was on the verge of suicide at times. Seriously, swimming with 50 pounds of weights on your back. I'm not kidding, I almost drowned in five feet of water. It was bad. But the things that I do to keep me in shape allow me to come out here and run around kind of crazy. In football it's all psychological. And as long as the coaches like Rex and [Clarence Brooks] give me leeway… The more leeway they give me, the more I come back towards them. They're kind of like, ‘Do your thing.' I say, ‘No, what do you want me to do?' Whereas they were like, ‘Hey, do this,' and I was like, ‘No, I'm doing my own thing!' (laughing). I think that's what makes me a 12-year-old. I ran the conditioning test backpedaling just because I could. Just to show off. That has nothing to do with age, just how you train. No one prepared and trained like I did."

On head coach John Harbaugh's first training camp: "I'm going to break this down for you all. This is no different from what I've already been through. I remember my first day of my first training camp under [former coach Brian] Billick. And I watched Ed Reed hit Todd Heap dead in his knee in a live drill. Hit him dead in his knee. And no one batted an eye. And I was like, ‘Where the heck am I?' In Denver, Mike Shanahan would have probably gone nuts. That was my introduction to this kind of football. It really is football. And we were going live all the time last year. So, I don't see it as that much of a difference. Harbaugh would say that, too. You know what? That's football."

On fights during camp: "As you noticed now, I'm just starting to back off a little bit. We had one yesterday between two guys, and everybody was like, ‘Hey man, let's break it up man, it's hot!' Everybody's tough, then the sun comes and beats up on you, and everybody's starting to back up a little bit. And even Harbs was like, ‘Come on!' At first, you know, everybody was excited, but now it's like, ‘Are you kidding me? We've got 20 more plays dude. Break it up!' I don't think anyone cares about it anymore. You shove him back and just say, ‘Aww, I'll get him next time.'"

On his offseason training: "I trained like a basketball player, which was intense in ways I can't even explain, because you just never rest. I'd run quarters, which I'm too big to run quarters, but when you run quarters you get a 15 second rest and then you've got to run another one. And another one, and another one. So when it came time for the conditioning test, I was having conversations during my runs ike, ‘Hey, so… I could do another one of these runs.' I trained with the head strength trainer of the [Denver] Nuggets. And he put me in a weight vest and made me lift weights with it on and run sprints with it on. I jogged three miles and rode my bike 30 miles, and it got to the point where I wondered if I could run a five-minute mile. So I tried. And of course, I failed. But my first time I had it under six minutes and I never could run a mile before in my life. And then I tried to do the conditioning test with my weight vest on one day, and I almost passed it. With my weight vest on. It was 48 pounds at first and I kept adding water to it to make it more. It got to the point where I was like, ‘I wonder if I can do this? I wonder if I can do a thousand reps of weight?' Seriously, it was like, ‘Let me try this!' It kept it interesting for me. That's the way I trained. I don't recommend it at all. To anybody."

On Ravens intern coach and former Falcon Chuck Smith: "We played Chuck in the Super Bowl, and Chuck didn't have a really good game, so I don't watch him too much (laughing). No I'm just kidding. He's helping us. He's helping those guys. He's an intense guy, and if he ever becomes a D-line coach, I'm playing for him."

On his strength: "I think because I'm light right now, I'm actually stronger than I ever have been. It got to the point where I was always lifting weights. And the age thing… I really don't know how to explain it anymore. Because after that I got on this health food kick, and started drinking wheat grass and all this foolishness. I hate saying that I feel young because that's such a stupid thing to say. When someone says that I think they're trying to make an excuse. I feel 33, or however old I am. I will be 33 Sunday. Thirty-three is how I want to feel. I could run, and what you think about as far as football, the finesse thing doesn't really make sense. I've always been a finesse player, and I'm a big guy. So if you've always been a finesse player, when you shock somebody, it shocks the [heck] out of them. I can do that very easily. They'll tell you today. I can strike somebody as hard as anybody else. I don't get moved because I'm just tall, I guess. I have no idea."

On what shape he is in: "I'm in as good a shape physically as I've ever been. Now what that means, I won't know until January of next year. And they'll tell you. Rex will tell you what kind of shape I'm in. I was playing corner, backpedaling and getting a break on the ball. I can do it consistently. Actually, funny enough, I'm actually gaining weight at training camp. Because I'm not running as much and as intense as I did during the offseason. All that means is I'm gaining weight during training camp. That's all it means. And I'm in great shape. At the end of the day I'm in great shape, and I'm gaining weight and getting fat (laughing). You get three reps and you run full speed, but that's nowhere near what my body is used to."

DT Haloti Ngata

On how he deals with injuries: "I tore my ACL my sophomore year in college. I just don't get down on myself, stay up and focus on rehabbing and getting back and trying to help the team out. Right now, it's just a little minor thing, a little speed bump that I'm trying to get over. I'll be back sooner than you guys think."

On how his knee feels: "It's a day-to-day thing. Yesterday, it felt really sore. Today, it's feeling really good. I'm walking around and rode the bike a little bit, just trying to get ready to get back into the groove of things."

On whether he has ever had a similar injury: "Yes, last year or two years ago. [It took] a week or two [to come back full strength]."

On whether he is hoping for a breakout year: "I'm just looking to get better and better every year, just improve at whatever I'm trying to do – get more tackles, whatever it is, helping the team win."

On what the Ravens need to do to duplicate the team's success of 2006: "Just being more of a team. I think last year we kind of separated a little bit. I think this year, we're a lot closer. I feel that from our coaching staff, and with the players being around each other, staying at the hotel, hanging out. Our veterans [are] helping out our rookies a lot more, so the team is just a lot closer this year."

On the strength program: "It's just rotating the lifting and stretching and getting your core strength back. It's just a lot of different things, not just the same thing like it was last year – just lifting, lifting, lifting. We're stretching along with it and also lifting and all that, so it's great to mix things in and out."

On how this year's camp is different from last year's: "I think you guys have already seen, it's a lot more hitting, a lot more time on the field. Last year, we had a lot of time off. This year, there's not as much, but it's just the beginning."

On how players are responding to the style of camp: "The guys are just adjusting to it. You really can't do anything about it. You just get out here and play, and I think guys are doing fine with it."

On whether he feared his knee could be worse than it is: "For me, I knew it was an MCL just because it was in my inner knee, and that's where I felt the pain from. Now it's just waiting for me to get back on the field. It should be sooner than later."

On the importance of developing depth on the defensive line: "Real important. Getting J'Vonne Parker and Kelly Talavou into the rotation is real important just because if one of us does go down, we can trust them to be in there and playing the game. I feel comfortable with them. They've done real well in camp."

On G Ben Grubbs' improvement: "Oh yeah, there's a big difference. He just has a lot better hands, and he's a lot better grounding himself. He's getting better. He and [Marshal] Yanda are doing real well this year."

On having a healthy Trevor Pryce: "It's big. Having Trevor Pryce adds more sacks on our team – like 13 sacks. So, having him is just great. Having his leadership and as an example to the younger guys makes it great to have him out here."

On whether his injury has isolated him from his teammates: "Not really, because I know I am going to be back and I am just trying to get myself better just to help the team out. I know that some of the guys are going to feel like that with the season-long injuries. I felt like that when I tore my ACL my sophomore year in college, and you're not being a part of the team. A lot of the times, it takes one of your teammates coming around and helping you out. So that's one of the things that some of the teams have to do."

On how much he has grown since his rookie year: "A lot. I trust all my guys now. I've been around Kelly [Gregg], and Trevor [Pryce]. Just knowing the playbook and not having to worry about it, I can just work on my technique and just go out there and play. I'm not thinking too much anymore. I'm just going out and playing now, so I feel like I've grown a lot."

CB Chris McAlister

On the offense's tempo in practice: "It's great, actually. The offense is great. [Cam] Cameron has brought a lot of diversity to the players, and they love that they're getting at it aggressively. For the defense, it's just another challenge. It allows us to work on different techniques and get better. The tempo of practice has been something that we haven't seen. It's actually, I think, going to help us in the long run because it's more of a fast pace, and that's what you're getting out of offenses now. You have your coach who lines up on the line of scrimmage, and they go for it [like] Cincinnati and the Patriots. I think that's what this type of practice is gearing us toward."

On rebounding from last season: "Last year is last year. I'm moving on to another year. [I] really don't have anything to say about it."

On DE Trevor Pryce: "He means a lot to this defense and to our defensive front. Trevor, he's a veteran guy who is an excellent pass and run defender. His presence in there allows us to have four-man blitzes because he does such a great job one-on-one."

On CB Fabian Washington: "Excellent talent. From what I've seen so far, he's got great feet. He gets into all of his breaks good and can run with anybody. His presence out there is going to help, along with everyone else that we got."

On the depth at cornerback: "I think the best guys are going to make the team. That's the whole point of competition. I think the organization has done a great job of bringing in some talent and making everybody compete for the jobs. At the end of the day, when we drop down to our [53-man] roster, we're going to have the best guys that are out there on the field."

On the key to improving over last season's record: "Just the practice and taking that whole mentality of a team. You have to play practice and treat each other with the intention that we're not going to get anywhere stepping on each other's toes. That's something that Harbaugh has expressed, and that's something that everybody has bought in to."

On whether the young wide receivers are improving: "The last couple of days that I've been out here, yeah. Every day, they're getting better and better on their press technique, getting in and out of their breaks. I think that with their additions to [Mark] Clayton, [Derrick] Mason and Demetrius [Williams], there are going to be a few guys that can help us."

On whether WR/RS Yamon Figurs pushed off when he caught a pass on McAlister in practice: "He did push off (laughing). Figurs has definitely improved from last year to this year, his route-running, catching ability. Obviously, he's the fastest thing out there, and that could pose a threat to any defense that he faces."

On whether he can play as long as Rod Woodson did: "I'm already 31. How long did Rod play, 36, 37? I can hit 36, 37 and still play."

On what he credits for his longevity: "God. He's taken care of me this far, and [I've] only had one major injury my entire life. I've been playing since I was 8. Knock on wood somewhere. At the end of the day, there's nothing else I can attribute it to."

On using his veteran experience to his advantage: "Definitely. You learn more as a veteran. You can practice at the same pace as everyone else, but have an advantage by knowing what you see from your offense. Or, from the other side, knowing what the offense sees from the defense and knowing where you have to get to. Those little things put you in position to make plays."

On whether the defensive philosophy has changed at all: "Oh, no. Go get ‘em. That's what we do. That's what they've always done here, even before I got here, since I've been here, and that's not going to change at all."

On whether the cornerback position has evolved during his career: "For a second, it did change, a long time ago. I'd say about six years ago the corners came out and started getting bigger and bigger and bigger as the wide receivers grew taller. Right now, it's just at a happy medium. The guys who aren't 6-2-plus playing the corner position have a tremendous amount of skills in other areas to make up for it, so I think it's all kind of balancing out."

On whether he is giving helpful advice to the younger players: "I don't know. I just feel like one of the young guys still. They look up to me in a way that at times catches me off guard, and they ask questions and what advice I can give – all the help I can give. To that aspect, it kind of makes me appreciate being able to play as long as I have that I can help someone else to try to give them the knowledge that I have."

On playing safety later in his career: "I'm going to. I'll be back there eventually at some point."

On being a part of the Baltimore Ravens: "From day one, I've been surrounded by a great group of people from top to bottom of the organization. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't trade being on another team for another 10 years somewhere else. I just love being here. If there's one guy in particular, [Ravens senior VP of public and community relations] Mr. Kevin Byrne, he is the man. Baltimore has been the perfect place for me. It's home to me, and I wouldn't trade it."


Ravens Insider Top Stories