Thursday, August 23, 2012
Ravens' kicking battle takes interesting turn
By Jamison Hensley
BALTIMORE -- Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff said after last week's preseason game that "this is really a competition with myself." In Thursday night's 48-17 preseason victory by the Ravens, Cundiff realized that he misjudged the kicking battle.
The Ravens let Justin Tucker kick the entire game, and the undrafted rookie made an impression by hitting a 53-yard field goal that would have been good from 63 yards. It was the latest interesting turn in the Ravens' kicking battle, where Tucker is trying to unseat Cundiff, a 2010 Pro Bowl kicker who missed a last-minute 32-yard field goal that would have tied last season's AFC championship game.
Cundiff said he was "shocked" when told of the team's decision the night before the game but refused to read too much into being sat down for the entire game. Reciting his statistics over the past two seasons -- making 90 percent of his kicks inside the 50-yard line, going 12 of 13 in the playoffs and recording the most touchbacks over that span -- Cundiff said his track record should speak for itself.
With Billy Cundiff on the bench, rookie Justin Tucker's night included this 53-yard field goal.
"I feel like if that’s not good enough, I’ll take my services elsewhere to be perfectly honest," he said after the game. "I feel like it’s a really solid track record and I’m not here to deal with hypotheticals."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh cautioned everyone not to jump to conclusions.
"Billy’s had a great, great camp. He’s done really well. I think we know Billy," Harbaugh said. "Billy would’ve come in here and made every one of those kicks. And when we kicked it deep, he would have kicked every one out of the back of the end zone. Billy’s proven. Tuck is not proven. This is something that he needed. We needed to see if he could handle the whole game from beginning to end and having that pressure on him. Obviously, he handled it pretty well."
It's clear that the Ravens are interested in Tucker. The Ravens wouldn't have given him this opportunity if they had already decided to give the job back to Cundiff.
Tucker isn't making any assumptions over whether kicking Thursday night indicates that he has taken the lead in the competition.
"All I can say is that I’m bringing my lunch pail to work," he said. "I come to work every day and try to get better every day and all of that stuff will take care of itself in the end. I’m just happy to have the opportunity and happy to have kicked well.”
Cundiff said the team's decision won't affect his confidence going forward.
"Let’s be honest. I feel like I’ve been through enough," he said. "There’s not a single thing that somebody could throw at me that I’m not prepared for. My confidence has been high. I know when I came into training camp, a lot of people asked me where my head was at and kind of questioning whether I’d be able to kick. I feel like I proved continually throughout training camp that I came in prepared. And regardless of what’s been thrown at me and what the situation is, I’m ready to kick."
Cundiff doesn't know what the team is planning to do in next week's preseason finale. "In this business, you’re in a need-to-know basis and they’re let you know when you need to know," he said. "This is my ninth team, so you got to understand that I’ve been through a lot of different situations. When you’re on a team, you’re on a team. When they don’t want you around, they’ll let you know really quickly and you’ll be out. Until that point, I feel like I’ve kicked extremely well and I’m going to continue to kick well."