Flacco to start remainder of season

OWINGS MILLS -- In defining the outlook for former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith now that he has fully recovered from a tonsil infection, coach John Harbaugh declared Wednesday that rookie Joe Flacco will remain the Baltimore Ravens' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.

Harbaugh said that Smith will be the third quarterback this week against the Indianapolis Colts and will eventually challenge veteran Todd Bouman for the backup role behind Flacco, period. This quells speculation that Smith might supplant Flacco at some point.

"Troy is working full-speed ahead as a healthy quarterback this week really for the first time, which is exciting and great news for us," Harbaugh said. "He strengthens us. He's working hard to expand his role, regain his proficiency where he was before and build from there and work his way potentially into the backup role.

"That will be his role this year, possibly in a role where he can contribute playing quarterback for us down the road. That all remains to be seen by game play and what not, and that's where we're at."

For Flacco, who emerged as the starter when Smith was sidelined prior to the third preseason game against the St. Louis Rams with an illness that caused him to lose over 20 pounds and Kyle Boller underwent shoulder surgery and was placed on injured reserve, the nod of confidence doesn't change his mindset.

In many ways, Flacco has been preparing to establish himself as the guy since being picked in the first round out of Delaware in April.

"That's the way I've been approaching it," Flacco said. "It's just a good opportunity for us to go out there and me to go out there as the quarterback and do as much as I can do to help this team win."

Flacco has completed 62 of 106 throws for a 58.5 percentage for 603 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and a 62.0 quarterback rating.

He has five turnovers in the past three games as Baltimore has lost its past two contests by a total of six points. He threw two interceptions in a 13-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans and lost a critical fumble in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but has been remarkably poised while he learns on the job.

"Joe, keep playing man," said wide receiver Derrick Mason, who has caught a team-high 21 receptions for 261 yards. "You can't mess with a quarterback. That's one thing I've found in this league that you can't do. Let a quarterback be a quarterback.

"Sometimes, you're going to hit them. Sometimes, you're going to miss them. Joe has a good track record because he's hit more than he's missed. So, 'Continue to play Joe.'"

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning took his lumps as a rookie, but grew from that experience.

"The only way I learned that is to be in there playing, in my opinion," Manning said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "It definitely served me well in my second year. We turned things around pretty quickly, going from 3-13 to 13-3, and I certainly felt more comfortable as a quarterback."

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