- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2008

From combined dispatches

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco will start in the season opener Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens, who awarded the job to their top draft pick because he’s the healthiest player at the position.

Flacco, the 18th pick in the 2008 draft, will launch his NFL career against the Cincinnati Bengals. There is a chance the two other quarterbacks competing for the job, Troy Smith and Kyle Boller, both will not be available as backups.

“It wouldn’t be realistic to have one of those two guys as a starter, for sure. If they can back up, I think that would be an upset,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Smith is still feeling the effects of infected tonsils, and Boller has a sore shoulder that could ultimately require surgery. In an effort to add depth, the Ravens worked out quarterbacks Chris Simms, Joey Harrington and Todd Bouman on Monday.

“We need a backup quarterback for the game,” Harbaugh said.

But for now, the focus is on Flacco, who was labeled the team’s “quarterback of the future” by general manager Ozzie Newsome on draft day shortly after the Ravens traded up to get the former University of Delaware standout.

BROWNS: Quarterback Derek Anderson, sidelined since Aug. 18 with a concussion, returned to practice and is expected to start Sunday’s season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

PATRIOTS: Tom Brady ran through agility drills and said he’s ready to play in New England’s opener.

The team also signed cornerback Deltha O’Neal, who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We played him last year in Cincinnati, and I did some work on him going into that game,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He is a very athletic corner, good ball skills, pretty big guy that goes up and plays a lot of press coverage.”

LIONS: Running back Rudi Johnson reached a one-year agreement with the Detroit Lions, the team confirmed to ESPN.

Johnson rushed for 5,742 yards in seven seasons with the Bengals.

RAIDERS: Oakland agreed to terms on a one-year contract with discarded receiver Ashley Lelie in hopes that the former first-round pick can regain his form and help bolster an inexperienced position group.

TRIBUTE: NFL players will wear a uniform patch this season to honor NFL players association leader Gene Upshaw, who died Aug. 20. The league announced Monday the patch will have the initials GU and the number 63, which he wore while playing for the Oakland Raiders.

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