Troy Smith tries to make the most of chance

OWINGS MILLS - Stricken by a severe viral infection two years ago, Troy Smith experienced an illness that caused him to lose more than his tonsils and a lot of weight. Heading into that preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, the Baltimore Ravens' reserve quarterback was on the cusp of possibly winning the starting job at the time.

Instead, it marked the launch of the Joe Flacco era in Baltimore as he played the entire game and assured the coaching staff that he was capable of immediately being under center as a rookie.

Fast forward to today as the Ravens (3-0) prepare for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Rams and Smith has no interest in reminiscing about what could have been.

The former Heisman Trophy winner is too busy, in his words, fighting for a roster spot to dwell on the past.

"A whole different situation, new team and just a good feel all around," said Smith, who dealt with blood clots that moved from his throat to his lungs back in 2008. "I'm good. I didn't get a chance to be a part of that, what happened back then. And things happen for a reason. Now, it's a whole new year, a whole different mindset and we're just moving forward."

Smith is expected to either start or play extensively against the Rams this time, perhaps even the entire four quarters.

Flacco will be rested, and the Ravens may not want to risk backup Marc Bulger in a meaningless preseason game.

The Ravens have the option of going with two quarterbacks on the active roster, but are considered unlikely to subtract Smith from the equation. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has carried three quarterbacks on the regular-season roster in each of his first two seasons.

As far as Smith is concerned, he's battling to prove he still belongs.

"Since I've been here, I've fought every year and I've said that time and time again," Smith said. "That's the nature of the beast. At this level, it's about competing. Not everybody that you slap fives with is going to be your teammate. You have that understanding.

"You can go back to my college days. Every single guy that was on the team had a roster spot. We had 112 guys on our team at Ohio State, so that's something totally different than what they're trying to make compared to me."

In three preseason games, Smith has completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a 93.9 passer rating.

He has also rushed for 41 yards on 14 carries, scoring one touchdown.

"I think it's going pretty well," Smith said. "I think continuously it's about being on the incline and doing good, positive things. As a quarterback, your learning curve is always constantly going and I totally believe in that.

"Whether it's your first year or your 10th year in anybody's system, you're constantly learning. You're constantly doing different things, and this system has obviously helped me so far."

Against the New York Giants last weekend, Smith threw a touchdown to Marcus Smith in the fourth quarter. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 133 yards.

It was his top performance of the month following an erratic training camp in Westminster where his accuracy was off.

Through his former agent, Ralph Cindrich, Smith lobbied for a trade last season. The most noise Cindrich made was about Smith supposedly being willing to crawl to his hometown of Cleveland to play for the Browns.

Ultimately, there were no takers and Smith wound up firing Cindrich and hiring Neil Cornrich.

Now, Smith is thinking about ensuring he remains in Baltimore.

"With this being my fourth year and having to go through some of the things that I've been through, it's a business, first and foremost," he said. "You can't do anything about that. The only thing that you can control and have an effect on is what you do on a daily basis. I continuously get myself together as a player and as a man and as a quarterback, and that's what I worry about."

What separates Smith from Flacco and Bulger, two classic pocket passers, is his mobility and ability to improvise.

He's also capable of running the Wildcat offense.

"Troy's a good player," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The thing we have to decide across the board is who are the best 53 players we have, but Troy is our third quarterback. Obviously, he's played very well in the preseason.

"I think he makes plays. He does bring a unique ability. He gets out of trouble and makes plays with his feet and with his arms. We've always liked Troy."

If Thursday night does mark the end of Smith's time in Baltimore, is there something he wants to prove to the Ravens and the rest of the NFL?

Not as far as Smith is concerned, though.

"I'm not in this business to try to show anybody anything," Smith said. "As a person, as a man, I think once you get into vendettas with other people, then things don't happen the way that you want them to. As a quarterback and as a man, I know what I need to do and achieve and I'm fine with that."

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