Speculation finally ended Thursday as the Ravens officially signed former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham to a one year deal, as he will begin to compete with incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff to be the team’s starting place kicker when the team takes on the Jets in Week 1 of the regular season.
“He’s here to compete for the kicking job for the Ravens,” coach John Harbaugh said to introduce Graham to the media after today’s rookie minicamp practice. “He’s the 4th most accurate kicker in NFL history, and he’s a veteran and he knows how to handle pressure situations.”
Graham is relieved the wait is over, as the talks between Graham and the Ravens have lasted for months.
“The best part about it is me not having to answer questions that I don’t have answers to for a long time,” Graham said. “This is a great fit for me. I’ve been excited about it all day, and once we got everything taken care of, I felt at home.”
Graham’s deal is for one year, and the deal could be worth up to 2.5 million dollars pending several incentives.
Graham was 23-of-28 with his field goals last year for the Bengals, a season in which he was the Bengals’ franchise player. He ran out of patience with Cincinnati during the playoffs last year, when he missed two short field goals (both inside 40 yards) in the Bengals 24-14 loss to the Jets in the opening round.
Graham said he is ready to turn a new page, especially since he is getting a fresh start with a team he is familiar with.
“That is motivation for myself,” Graham said. “I know I’m better than that. Even the best have bad days, and that’s what I feel like has made me better over my career.”
Being in the AFC North for the last seven seasons, he has had great success kicking in all four stadiums in the Ravens’ division. He has had great success here in Baltimore as a member of the away team; in 2007, he was 7-for-7 on the day, tied for second in NFL history. During that season, he once hit 21 straight field goals in a row, and that consistency is one of the reasons why he is the 4th most accurate kicker in NFL history.
He is now in a battle with Cundiff, who was 12-of-17 last season for the Ravens after replacing Steve Hauschka early through the schedule. Harbaugh said that it’s an open battle for the job, and it will only make each of them better.
“For us to be in a situation,” Harbaugh said, “where we’ve got two quality veteran kickers competing and both guys embracing the opportunity to compete for the job, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes football players better.”
Graham, the 2005 AFC kicker in the Pro Bowl, was in talks with several teams, but he felt like the Ravens were his best opportunity and despite having to battle for the job, his mindset was not going to change wherever he decided to kick.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve had to compete for a job in camp with long term veterans, rookies,” Graham said. “Really I wouldn’t expect anything else. That’s what the NFL is; nothing’s guaranteed for anyone.”
· New wide receiver Donte Stallworth was on the field today on the sidelines watching practice and talking with the staff while the rookies practiced.
· Davon Drew and Dennis Pitta took most of the reps at tight end today, with Ed Dickson seeing some action.
· Second year tackle Joe Reitz, a member of the practice squad the last two seasons, practiced with the other offensive lineman present.
· Sixth round tackle Ramon Harewood came out towards the end of practice and tested his injured right knee with trainer Bill Tessendorf. Harewood still has not yet been cleared to practice.
· After bringing in Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph to run drills during rookie camp, the Ravens brought in another quarterback, this time Brad George, a 6-6 220 lb quarterback out of Texas State University-San Marcos. George is the school’s all-time leading passer (9,556 yards, 76 TDs).