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Heisman winner Troy Smith debuts against McNabb-less Eagles

BALTIMORE -- The last time Troy Smith played a significant football game, he was vying for a national championship.

In his NFL debut Monday night, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will be competing for a job.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb won't play for the Eagles. McNabb's first game action since he tore the ACL in his right knee last November will come Friday night when the Eagles host Carolina in the home preseason opener, coach Andy Reid said.

"He worked well and he seemed strong (during training camp)," Reid said. "I'd rather just start him off at our place on grass."

Smith and former UCLA standout Drew Olson are seeking to begin the season as the Baltimore Ravens' third-string quarterback behind Steve McNair and Kyle Boller. The duel begins in earnest against the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener for both teams.

The winner gets a spot on the roster with a team that has high hopes for reaching the Super Bowl.

"I'm getting a chance and opportunity to be part of something special here, and it's my first Monday night football game. It means a lot," Smith said. "Getting back out there on the field just means a lot. I'm just anxious to get out there."

If nothing else, Smith will have another game to think about instead of the debacle in the BCS title game, when unbeaten Ohio State got blown out by Florida 41-14.

The 6-foot Smith, Baltimore's fifth-round pick in the draft, has been deemed by some critics to be too small to play in the NFL. The 6-2 Olson has the edge in height and experience, having played in the preseason as a rookie last year and in NFL Europa over the summer.

Bring it on, Smith says.

"It's competition. There was competition everywhere I went," he said. "I'm no stranger to that."

But Smith stressed that he and Olson won't be seeking to show each other up.

"It's not anything like that. Drew and I have known each other for a long time," Smith said.

McNair is expected to start for the Ravens. He will probably play one series before giving away to Boller, with Olson and Smith to follow.

Asked to predict how Smith will fare, Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "My guess is that Troy, as is typical of his career, has something about him in a game situation."

Smith won't get the opportunity to see McNabb play, but there's a good chance he will seek out the veteran before the game in search of a little advice.

"Donovan McNabb of course is one of the guys that I still look up to. He's every bit the professional. Everything about him I totally respect," Smith said.

A.J. Feeley will start at quarterback and the first-team offense will play the entire first quarter, Reid said. Kelly Holcomb will run the second-team offense for the second quarter and Kevin Kolb, the team's top draft pick, has been told he will play the entire second half.

The result of the game is meaningless, but for many of the rookies it's an opportunity to understand the significance of playing in an NFL game.

"Those who (say) preseason games don't mean much, go talk to those rookies," Billick said. "I mean, this is the biggest game they've played in their life. They're going to get out there, see those 60,000-plus people, it's going to be an experience for them. So their emotions, their temperament, is going to running sky high."

Kolb will probably be eager and nervous, but Reid won't ask the rookie quarterback to do too much.

"We're not just going to have him go out there and wing it every play," Reid said. "We can give the young running backs the opportunity to run the football a little bit, too. That's the fun part about this first game - you get an opportunity to see these young kids play."

Several key players besides McNabb won't be available for Philadelphia.

Matt Schobel will start for tight end L.J. Smith, who is out with a groin injury. Philadelphia will also be without defensive tackles Montae Reagor (knee) and Ian Scott (knee), guard Shawn Andrews (ankle), cornerbacks Dustin Fox (heel) and Lito Sheppard (oblique), free safety Brian Dawkins (heel), wide receiver Bill Sampy (leg) and linebacker Dedrick Roper (foot).

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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