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Training days: QB competition is Ravens' most pressing issue

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As Brett Favre dissected his journey from the Packers to the Jets on a television in the Gillette Stadium press room, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome watched. His arms were folded. Then he placed his chin into his right palm.

Newsome might have been thinking:

A. What a coup for the Jets.

B. They are no longer a limping foe.

C. This move changes the face of the AFC.

D. Why didn't I go get this guy?

No, Newsome said later, he was simply enjoying the moment, a historical NFL moment. And he was thinking more so about the maturation of his quarterbacks -- Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco.

One from the trio will win the Ravens' starting quarterback role. Boller started on Thursday night vs. the New England Patriots in the preseason opener. Smith, and then Flacco, followed.

Boller was 11-of-15 passing for 102 yards. He was stripped and fumbled once. He was sacked once. He threw an interception. Smith completed 5-of-12 passes for 74 yards. Flacco stumbled to a 0-for-3 passing finish. He lost a fumble on his second snap.

Combined, the Baltimore quarterbacks were 16 of 30 for 176 yards with three sacks, an interception and a 57.1 passer rating.

But their quarterback play widely ranged from solid to shaky. No news there.

"It was the first time out, so, you're going to have some bumps in there," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "This is not a competition that will be decided in one series or one game. There is plenty of football to be played to make that decision."

The Ravens would love for one of these passers to step boldly forward and claim the job.

Boller looked strong on several deep out throws, but again displayed a knack for ill-advised decisions under pressure. Smith enjoyed sure-handed moments, but not the big-play production he would like. Flacco looked overwhelmed in his rookie debut and digressed from his earlier strong camp showings.

"I think all three of us learned things today that will help us down the road," Smith said. "As a group, we ran the offense and took what we could. But there is so much more that we all can improve on. Certainly, there are a couple of throws that we would all like back. We'll just keep playing and working. I prepared today like I was the starter. We all did. Kyle got the first crack tonight but we'll all get that chance."

The chance to replace Steve McNair, who retired after last season and left the Ravens with a question they must answer: Which of these three quarterbacks is his worthy successor?

The Ravens might privately be rooting for Flacco, their recent first-round draft selection from Delaware. If Flacco can win the job and gain rapid-fire, in-game training this season, that would bode well for the Ravens' future and possibly their present.

[internal-link-placeholder-0]Camp: Westminster, Md.

Preseason games:
Aug. 7: at New England, 16-15
Aug. 16: Minnesota, 7:30 p.m. ET

Aug. 23: at St. Louis, 8 p.m. ET

Aug. 28: Atlanta, 7 p.m. ET

Boller and Smith will have plenty of opportunity to make their claims before the decision is made.

"It would mean everything for me to win this job," Smith said. "To get the chance to be a leader on a team full of leaders would be great. It's a new offense that we are all learning and there is no room for negativity. We help each other out. We're a team. Just because it is an intense competition does not mean it can't be done with class. We're football players, we're quarterbacks, but we are men first. Teammates first. That means a lot."

The Ravens will host the Vikings, visit the Rams and then host the Falcons to conclude the preseason before opening the regular season at home against the Bengals. Their quarterback decision colors their entire preseason.

Boller knows that the winner could be the quarterback who makes the fewest mistakes as much as hits on the big plays.

"We drove down the field right away and put some points on the board that first drive," Boller said. "The offensive linemen did an unbelievable job. I don't think I was touched one time. The main thing we wanted to do early was not turn the ball over and put some points on the board. I don't want to turn the ball over. That is the most important thing. We have to continue to work on not turning the ball over."

Each quarterback gets that message.

But which one will deliver?

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