While most of his teammates are preparing for Sundays, Tyrod Taylor's time to shine is during the week.
On the practice fields hidden behind team headquarters, the Ravens' coaching staff unleashes him on the defense as the scout-team quarterback, letting him fling footballs downfield, escape from the pocket and run top-secret trick plays that were scribbled on a chalkboard specifically for him.
Once defenders were done grasping at air as Taylor scrambled around during Friday's practice, teammates stood in the locker room grasping for words to describe his skill set.
- Scouting report for Ravens vs. Bears
- Torrey Smith looking to get on 'same page,' into end zone
- Mike Preston's key matchups for Ravens vs. Bears
- Ravens players clean out lockers
- Patriots 35, Ravens 31
- Mike Preston grades the Ravens' 35-31 loss to the Patriots
See more photos »
- Pro Football
- Baltimore Ravens
See more topics »
"Whenever that boy gets a chance," said wide receiver Tandon Doss, shaking his head, "he is going to be a monster. His play-making ability is incredible. I've never seen somebody so athletic play football. He's a freak. He's got it. He's something special, I'm telling you."
Throughout the NFL this season, backup quarterbacks have gotten opportunities to prove themselves after injuries or ineptitude sent a dozen starters to the bench. But here in Baltimore, Taylor patiently waits behind Joe Flacco, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who has never missed a snap due to injury in his six seasons in the league.
"It can definitely be frustrating because you know the talent that you have," Taylor said. "But I'm still learning, and I'm taking everything and just learning from it. That's the main thing, just being patient."
The Ravens are thankful that Taylor's playing time is mostly limited to preseason games and the occasional trick play. But even though Taylor is still a relative unknown in his third NFL season, the team is confident in his ability to keep the huddle warm should Flacco ever be sidelined.
"Tyrod is a great player, and if that was to happen, I think everybody should feel very confident about his abilities to go in there, run the offense and get the job done," Flacco said.
Taylor's athleticism was on display last Sunday when he took an end-around handoff 18 yards for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals. But besides teammates, coaches and Ravens staffers, no one — not even the media — has seen him throw a pass in an 11-on-11 scenario since the preseason.
Taylor impressed in his first two appearances, throwing for 237 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception while also rushing for 42 yards as the Ravens took advantage of his legs with a read-option package designed for him. He suffered a concussion in the third preseason game, though, and did not suit up for the finale, which the backup usually starts.
"He's a guy that can certainly throw the ball," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "He's a quarterback that's a good field general, a quarterback that can move the ball down the field. I think as time goes on, he just keeps developing and getting better with the limited amount of snaps that he gets in terms of games. But [we] can see the growth and development."
In his first two seasons, Taylor was just trying to learn the offense. Heading into this third season, he made the mental aspect of the position his primary focus and now feels much more comfortable making protection calls at the line of scrimmage and calling audibles.
"That's what's big in this league -- just conducting the offense," Taylor said. "I've always had the physical ability to go out there and throw the football and make plays."
His athletic feats are passed around the locker room like folk lore, the way he can sky for dunks on the basketball court or juke defenders out of their jocks in the open field.
"Honestly, he reminds me of [Seattle Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson," inside linebacker Josh Bynes said. "He's that kind of guy that people probably looked over him because he was short and this and that. They're very similar. They're both elusive. And they can launch the ball down the field. It's a tough task going against him every day in practice."
Taylor's only extended action in a meaningful game came in last year's regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he threw for 149 yards and an interception and also rushed for 65 yards and a score after the Ravens, who had nothing to play for, quickly pulled Flacco and other starters.
After the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round in 2011, Taylor, who started 42 games at Virginia Tech and was the Atlantic Cost Conference's Most Valuable Player as a senior, knew he would have to get used to watching from the sideline, but he refused to change his mindset.
"It definitely was a big adjustment, but I never view myself as a backup," said Taylor, who is in the third year of his four-year rookie contract. "I know my role here, but at the same time I approach it as if I am a starter because you never know when your number is going to get called and guys expect you to go in there and play well."
Midway through November, 12 of the NFL's 32 teams have had to turn to their backup quarterback at some point. One of those teams is the Chicago Bears, who will start Josh McCown in place of the injured Jay Cutler when they host the Ravens on Sunday. Another is the Cleveland Browns, who beat the Ravens with one-time third-stringer Jason Campbell two weeks ago.
"It's unfortunate for the guys that are starting, but it's a great opportunity for guys," Taylor said. "A lot are making the most of their opportunities and playing well for their teams."
And Taylor is confident that he could do the same should an opportunity present itself.
The Ravens would tweak their offense to better suit his skills, likely including read-option runs and bootlegs. But while he enjoys using his mobility to put stress on defenses, Taylor is also eager to prove that he is more than just a scrambler.
In the meantime, he plans to make the most of his practice time and mental reps and prepare himself for the moment his number is finally called, whether it is here or elsewhere.
"God put me in this position for a reason, to impact my teammates and learn what I can from Joe, to be a great teammate but to also prepare yourself for an opportunity," Taylor said.