BALTIMORE -- Derrick Mason would prefer to watch the final game of the preseason from the sideline, a practice he enjoyed during his days with the Tennessee Titans.
Back then, the Titans gave quarterback Steve McNair all the playing time he needed in their first three exhibition games. That way, the first-team offense got to rest a week before the regular season while the backups competed for a place on the roster.
"After the third game, Steve wasn't in there anymore and neither was I," said Mason, a Baltimore Ravens wide receiver. "But it's a unique situation we have here."
Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and top draft pick Joe Flacco remain very much in the running to take over the job that became vacated when McNair retired after two seasons with Baltimore.
A viral infection kept Smith out of last week's game against St. Louis, and the former Heisman Trophy winner hadn't recovered by Tuesday. Boller, meanwhile, has been sidelined for more than a week with a sore shoulder that doesn't appear to be getting any better.
Flacco threw the team's lone touchdown pass of the preseason last week in a 24-10 loss, but his performance was far from flawless.
"He can build on everything," Harbaugh said. "I think some specific things would be to be more accurate and to get the ball out quickly. Across the board, just continue to improve."
So where does Mason fit in with all this? He isn't so sure. Harbaugh is eager to see Smith operate the starting offense, so if he can play, then the 35-year-old Mason will, too.
"I just need to do what I can to help this team win. If Harbaugh wants me to go out and play with Troy, then I'll play with Troy because we need to have that chemistry," Mason said. "If Troy goes three quarters and Harbaugh says I have to go three quarters, then I have to play three quarters and deal with it."
The Ravens have unsolved issues beyond quarterback. They still haven't settled on a replacement for left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who retired before the season. Jared Gaither was supposed to step in, but because of an ankle sprain he will finally see his first game action of the summer on Thursday.
"We're not in an ideal situation, but we're not an ideal team right now," Mason said. "We're a very young team, a team coming off a 5-11 season. Our tackle retired and our starting quarterback retired, all in one year. And we have a new coaching staff. So we're not a typical team right now. And the situation at quarterback is not typical."
Not typical, and not resolved.
"Of course you would want that decision to have been made a long time ago, but you've got to let this thing play out," Harbaugh said. "After this game, we'll all know who the starting quarterback will be."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press