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OWINGS MILLS — Although Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Kyle Boller took every snap this week with the first-team offense, starter Steve McNair hasn’t given up on starting Sunday’s home opener against the New York Jets.
McNair is listed officially as questionable on the injury report, and said Friday that he will be a game-time decision.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback increased his activity markedly, throwing accurately on short passes at the beginning of practice and during a throwing session with several backups after practice.
However, McNair did sail a few deep balls, which was an issue during the Ravens’ season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals where he fumbled three times and was intercepted once. He didn’t seem to be in any pain or hampered by decreased mobility, but was held out of team drills.
"If I can go out there and still be able to move and not alter my mechanics, I’m going to play," McNair told a small group of reporters. "If I can’t, I just can’t. That’s something we’ll know in a couple of days.
"It’s sore, but I got a couple of days. It felt pretty good out there. Hopefully, we’ll work the kinks out and continue to get better."
Ravens coach Brian Billick acknowledged that McNair could wind up playing based on the way he performed Friday.
"Sure, but this is not the game," Billick said. "So, we’ll have to see. We’ve got two days."
Since being acquired in a trade last year from the Tennessee Titans, McNair has yet to miss a start. Yet, he did miss a dozen during the three previous seasons.
McNair has a proven track record of not practicing and still playing well, including a 2002 stint where he didn’t practice due to turf toe, back and rib injuries while leading the Titans to a 5-0 streak.
Friday marked his heaviest workload since getting hurt Monday night and being relieved by Boller.
"I’m always ready to go, but that’s my opinion," McNair said. "It’s up to the coaches and the medical staff to make that decision."
If McNair and Chad Pennington can’t play due to a sprained ankle, it could set the stage for a battle of the backups between the Jets’ Kellen Clemens and Boller. Boller, who’s 18-16 as a starter, hasn’t started since a 2005 game against the Cleveland Browns to close out the regular season and his three-year tenure as the starter.
"It’s more challenging when you don’t know who the starter is," Jets coach Eric Mangini said in a conference call. "You have to put a little more time into both guys."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.