Troy Smith has been shaky during the preseason, but the Ravens love his potential.
Gail Burton / AP Enlarge
BALTIMORE - Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith has earned the job as the Baltimore Ravens' third-string quarterback. His place on the team, however, is not yet guaranteed.
The Ravens cut former UCLA quarterback Drew Olson yesterday, leaving the former Ohio State star alone on the depth chart behind starter Steve McNair and backup Kyle Boller.
"What still has to be determined is if we'll carry two or three quarterbacks on the active roster," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. "Last year we carried two."
Even if the Ravens go with only two quarterbacks, Smith will almost certainly earn a paycheck on Baltimore's practice squad.
That's no small feat for the last player drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft, in part because he was deemed by some scouts to be too small to be a pro quarterback.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Smith had only two games to make an impression on the Ravens coaching staff. His third opportunity was washed away when lightning ended Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins in the third quarter.
Smith was 3-for-11 for 34 yards in the opener against Philadelphia and 4-for-8 for 60 yards against the New York Giants. Olson was 7-for-9 for 84 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles, but only 1-for-4 for six yards against New York.
Rather than wait to make a decision, the Ravens cut ties with Olson - who played in NFL Europa and was on Baltimore's practice squad last year - and went with Smith.
"You just know there's loads and loads of potential there," offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel said. "It's difficult in the short time that we've been with him to get all that out of him, especially because he's trying to indoctrinate himself into a new offense, new terminology, and all that kind of stuff.
"We made the decision to bank on the huge upside that Troy has," Neuheisel said.
Smith won the Heisman Trophy, threw 54 touchdown passes at Ohio State, and led the Buckeyes into the national championship game last season. His outstanding college career couldn't prepare him for the NFL.
On Sunday, Smith was engaged in a friendly competition with Olson. Yesterday, Olson was gone.
"I just gave him a call to see what time we were coming in, and he told me they had released him," Smith said. "It was a shock to me. Guys you slapped fives with might not even be here. You never know. It's an incredible business."
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