Smith cleared for light workouts

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Troy Smith has been cleared medically to resume light conditioning workouts, but it remains unclear when he might return to play following a severe tonsil infection that sidelined him when he was competing for the starting job.

The former Heisman Trophy winner hasn't practiced since falling ill Aug. 22 prior to the Ravens' preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.

There is no specific timetable for Smith to return to the field, and he will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

He lost roughly 20 pounds and has been dealing with a blood clot in the jugular vein of his throat, a complication that caused an infection in his lungs and chest pain. His condition has improved significantly through antibiotics treatment

"This is extraordinarily unlucky," said Dr. Andrew Tucker, the Ravens' head physician, during a Monday press conference. "It's a rare complication of a very severe tonsil infection. Ironically, this type of problem, although rare, does happen most commonly in young, healthy people like Troy.

"Troy is someone who's young, who's healthy, has a normal immune system, normal heart and lungs. Troy's health was never in danger. He was never critically ill."

When Smith was forced out of the St. Louis game due to nausea, fever and general soreness, the Ravens initially had concerns that he might be contagious to the other players. However, that fear proved to be unfounded as Tucker said that no other players have developed similar symptoms.

"We were concerned about Troy's contagiousness when we were in St. Louis," Tucker said. "We wanted him not only be comfortable during the game, but we didn't want him exposing other team members.

"We've had plenty of stomach flu and mild colds, but nobody has had the kind of severe throat infection that Troy had and it must be regarded as rather fluky or unusual."

Tucker said it has been recommended that Smith have his tonsils removed after the season.

The doctor attributed the weight loss to not being able to eat and drink and maintain enough calories, causing the loss of muscle tissue.

The timing was bad for Smith as he was on the verge of possibly claiming the job if he had performed well against the Rams.

Smith didn't conduct interviews Monday, but may speak with reporters later this week, according to a team spokesman.

Now, the former Ohio State star's status is uncertain as rookie Joe Flacco is the starter, Todd Bouman is currently the backup and Casey Bramlet is on the practice squad as the third quarterback.

Nonetheless, coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens have no current plans to place Smith on injured reserve. He made no commitments about where Smith might rank on the depth chart when he's back.

"We're pretty certain that he's going to be back playing for the bulk of the season," Harbaugh said. "We don't know what our situation is going to be when he comes back. We think he's a heck of a quarterback, and he's going to make our team stronger when he comes back.

"It's going to be partly medical. Partly football strategy, what role can he play to help us win? Where Joe is at, where the offense is at, where our team is at that time. When he comes back, it's going to be a big plus for us."

TALKING BROWNS: Harbaugh grew up in Ohio as a Cleveland Browns fan, many of whom still hold a heavy grudge against former Ravens team owner Art Modell for moving the original Browns to Maryland.

"What he's done for Baltimore and the way that whole thing played out, I think it's played out in a real positive way in a way that nobody could have anticipated," Harbaugh said. "He did everything he could to keep the franchise in Cleveland, and providence didn't happen.

"So, he made the best of it, came here and made a bunch of people really happy. He's a hero in my mind."

FLACCO UPDATE: Although the Ravens have yet to declare that Flacco will remain the starter for the entire season, the lack of a commitment hasn't bothered the first-round draft pick

"I don't think Joe would ever look over his shoulder," Harbaugh said. "Joe wants to compete. He wants to be the guy. He's fighting hard to be the guy over the long terms, and we'll see what happens."

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh declined to say if offensive tackle Willie Anderson will start against the Browns, but praised the four-time Pro Bowl lineman. "He plays as a real mauler, but his personality is kind of quiet and cerebral, a student of the game," he said. ... Harbaugh phoned Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn on Monday to congratulate him on his first victory as a head coach. Harbaugh's first congratulatory call after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals for his first win was from Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, a former Ravens assistant and the brother-in-law of former Ravens coach Brian Billick. Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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