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Boller expected to play much of first half; Flacco, Smith to split time

WESTMINSTER, Md. -- Kyle Boller's 42 career starts won't necessarily land him the job as Baltimore Ravens quarterback. His experience did, however, earn him the start in the preseason opener at New England.

At his first NFL training camp, coach John Harbaugh is staging an open competition to determine his first-string quarterback. Boller, second-year pro Troy Smith and rookie Joe Flacco will be judged on how they fare this month in training camp and in preseason games.

Harbaugh waited until Tuesday to announce his starter against the AFC champion Patriots on Thursday night.

"I think it's more of a nod to experience and seniority," Harbaugh said.

Boller has been a starter since his rookie season in 2003 and has 40 more career starts than Smith and Flacco combined. But because Boller has yet to play for an extended period with any measure of consistency, he must win the job all over again.

He has no complaints about the procedure, but appreciates getting the first stab at impressing the coaching staff in a game situation.

"The ultimate goal is to be able to go there with the first team, and I'm going to have the opportunity to do that, be out there with my guys," Boller said. "I just want to have fun and execute. Move the ball down the field."

Boller has played in dozens of games with higher stakes, including a near-upset of undefeated New England last season when the Ravens faded in the fourth quarter. Boller wants to play well Thursday night, but doesn't feel a need to put distance between himself and Smith and Flacco.

"I can't put so much pressure on myself that I need to be perfect every play. I hope I am, but if something goes wrong it's not the end of the world," Boller said. "I have a bunch of starts under my belt and lots of game experience."

Boller will play most of the first half before Smith and Flacco split time the rest of the way. Harbaugh expected the pattern to change for each preseason game.

"We're going to balance those guys' (plays) out through training camp," Harbaugh said. "Kyle has been here, so that's why he's getting the first game."

Boller has no intention of treating this like a playoff game, but he understands the significance of the start and the importance of being productive.

"How I play in these games is going to determine who's going to be the starter," he said. "Every one of these games is extremely important. You get very limited (plays), so you have to take advantage of every throw you have and do everything you can to win that job."

Notes: Rookie RB Ray Rice is expected to start Thursday for injured Willis McGahee (knee). ... TE Todd Heap (leg) and OTs Adam Terry and Jared Gaither (ankles) are also expected to miss the game.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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