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Chapter 9: Injury after insult after implosion – Psychology 2012

Posted on 20 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“There’s really no way to accurately describe it or predict what it means. I’m never going to get over it. It’s never going to be OK.”

– John Harbaugh (March 2012)

 

 

 

ONE SPLIT SECOND. THAT’S ALL it took for New England Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore to swat the ball out of the hands of wide receiver Lee Evans in the southwest corner of the end zone at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on January 22, 2012 in the waning moments of the AFC Championship Game.

The Ravens were a literally a blink of an eye away from going to the Super Bowl. Had Evans clutched the ball just a moment longer, the Ravens would’ve taken the lead in what was a 23-20 game with just 27 seconds left in regulation. Instead, a play later, as the play clock seemed to move at double speed and with head coach John Harbaugh still sitting on one timeout, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff raced onto the field to kick what felt like an almost automatic 32-yard field goal that would tie the game and send it to overtime.

The chaos, the confusion, the play clock was winding, the indecision, the snap – it all happened so fast. There were 138 plays in the game and Ravens fans will only remember two of them: the Evans swat and drop and the Cundiff miss. The Cundiff field goal would’ve tied the game, but the Evans play was far closer to being successful and some replays, if slowed down enough, certainly looked like he had possession for an instant.

“Honestly, for a split-second I thought he caught the ball,” said Flacco. “I thought we were going to the Super Bowl. I threw the ball and I threw my hands up for a split second because I

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Tucker living up to big contract and then some for Ravens

Posted on 29 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Kickers are a volatile bunch, making a long-term investment in one a risky proposition.

Former Pro Bowl selection Blair Walsh lost his job earlier this season just 16 months after Minnesota made him one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL. Former Raven Billy Cundiff’s infamous miss in the 2011 AFC Championship came one day shy of exactly a year after he’d signed a five-year extension on the heels of a Pro Bowl campaign.

It’s safe to say Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has lived up to his record-setting contract and then some in the first season of a four-year, $16.8 million that included a record $10.8 million guaranteed for a kicker. His near-perfect season was recognized Thursday when the local media voted him the Ravens’ Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season.

Tucker was named to his second Pro Bowl last week and has missed just one field goal in his last 19 games dating back to last December. He’s quite a weapon for an offense that struggled frequently in 2016.

“It is not only his volume of work; it is the kicks he has made in circumstances and yardage,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He has had a lot of long range kicks, a lot of wind and things to deal with in the stadiums we have played in. He has been spot-on. He has been excellent.”

An MVP honor being given to a kicker is viewed by many as an indictment on the rest of the 53-man roster — especially when it happens twice in four years — but that sentiment shouldn’t diminish Tucker’s greatness in 2016. Despite being tied for 26th in touchdowns scored this season, the Ravens could thank their kicker’s incredible consistency for keeping them in the playoff hunt until Pittsburgh eliminated them last Sunday.

Tucker has gone an exceptional 37-for-38 on field goal attempts with his only blemish a 34-yard attempt that was blocked on an impressive display of athleticism from New England’s Shea McClellin in Week 14. Twenty-four of those successful field goals have been from 40 yards or longer as he regularly turned drives stalling short of the red zone into valuable points.

He’s one of only five qualified kickers not to have missed an extra point this season, and he and Dan Bailey of Dallas are the only full-time kickers not to have missed one since the extra point became a 33-yard try last season.

Of the Ravens’ six wins by a single possession in 2016, Tucker hit three or more field goals three times and at least two field goals in all six. He’s also hit two game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter this season, extending his reputation for delivering in clutch situations. And after receiving some criticism for going just 8-for-19 on tries from 50 yards and beyond in the previous two seasons, Tucker has gone an amazing 10-for-10 on attempts from that long range in 2016.

In other words, Baltimore having no more than an average kicker this season would have likely resulted in a losing season and elimination from playoff contention a couple weeks sooner.

Upon being named team MVP, Tucker was sure to credit long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch as well as Rosburg and kicking consultant Randy Brown for their parts in his success, but the most accurate kicker in NFL history deserves the praise he’s received and then some.

“We have a great group around here, and I can’t brag on them enough,” Tucker said. “To be able to turn our hard work into accolades is very cool, but at the same time, we know we still have work to do.”

Tucker hasn’t done it alone, but he’s the one making the big bucks.

And he was worth every penny in 2016 as other teams around the league experienced headaches at the kicker position.

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 23-21 win over Cleveland

Posted on 23 September 2014 by Luke Jones

After every Ravens game this season, we’ll take a look at five numbers that help explain the outcome …

2 — The number of field goals missed by former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff
Skinny: The Ravens were fortunate to come away with a win in Cleveland, and they can thank their former kicker for another wide-left try that brought back a not-so-pleasant memory. Cundiff’s second kick was blocked by Asa Jackson, but the Ravens defensive back acknowledged after the game that the attempt came out lower than normal. Both sides made mistakes that could have cost them the game, but Cundiff’s fourth-quarter misses were pivotal in keeping the Ravens within striking distance.

3 — The number of incompletions thrown by Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer on the final two drives
Skinny: Overall, it was a brutal day for the Ravens secondary as Hoyer completed 19 of 25 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown, but three of those six incompletions came on the Browns’ final two drives of the game when they simply needed some first downs to run out the clock. Instead, the Browns went three-and-out each time and the Ravens finally cashed in on their final drive to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. As poorly as the defense played for long stretches of Sunday’s game, the group was able to come up with two big stops when the Ravens needed them.

3.1 — The yards per carry allowed by the Ravens defense
Skinny: Baltimore’s outside linebackers still need to do a more consistent job of setting the edge, but a stout Cleveland running game found little room to work save for a handful of plays. Even though Hoyer played well, the Browns would have likely been able to put the game away had they ran with any consistency. Over Cleveland’s final two offensive drives, the Ravens gave up six rushing yards on three carries and forced two punts to keep their hopes alive. The front seven may not be getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but playing the run hasn’t been too large of a problem through three weeks.

75 — The number of receiving yards produced by Steve Smith in the fourth quarter
Skinny: Through three quarters, the 35-year-old wide receiver had caught just one pass for 26 yards on three targets, but that changed when Joe Flacco began looking his way often in the final 15 minutes. Targeted four times in the fourth quarter, Smith made four receptions and was the only receiver the Ravens quarterback trusted in crunch time. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones struggling to get acclimated in Gary Kubiak’s offense and Dennis Pitta exiting in the second quarter, Steve Smith’s ability to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden for the 32-yard reception on the final drive was obviously the biggest play of the game.

157 — The number of rushing yards reached by the Baltimore offense for the second straight week
Skinny: The Ravens finished with 160 yards on 33 attempts, but hitting the 157-yard plateau in two straight games illustrates how far the running game has come under Kubiak. Baltimore ran for that many yards in a game just once (against Chicago) all last year, but a productive running game makes Flacco that much more efficient when he goes to the air. The Cleveland rush defense has been a mess this season, but it was nice to see the Ravens commit to the run despite starter Bernard Pierce being out and they learned Lorenzo Taliaferro can be a major contributor sooner rather than later.

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An Easter Sweet 16 of treats that were better than candy in the basket

Posted on 14 April 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

This one will be worthy of some bar room arguments this week but I was entrusted with identifying the 16 greatest games in Baltimore sports history. Passion. Drama. Great finishes. Memorable action on the field of play.

I wrote down a list of 30 great games and seeded them based on the significance of the outcome and the level of activity in the games and came up with a WNST.net Sweet 16 lost full of memories but not all them had happy endings.

Hey, a great game is a great game. All of these left me feeling like I got my monies worth.

Feel free to feedback below or via Twitter, Facebook or email (nasty@wnst.net).

 

16. Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 8, 2013)

It will take some more time to know how distance treats this recent classic, but it’s hard to top the only snow game in the franchise’s history going back and forth with five touchdowns in the final 2:05 of a 29-26 win for the Ravens over the Vikings. “Will we ever see another game like that again?” head coach John Harbaugh said. The answer to that is probably “no.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tucker right back to work after winning kicking job for Ravens

Posted on 27 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Upon learning he had beaten out veteran Billy Cundiff to become the Ravens kicker, Justin Tucker couldn’t resist taking time to enjoy it.

Even if only for a moment before refocusing his efforts toward keeping the job the 22-year-old worked so hard to earn over the last three months.

“Probably for about a minute I got a chance to celebrate and call everyone in my family and a few of my good friends from school and let them know some good news,” Tucker said. “Right after that, you have to put your head down and get right back to work.”

It’s that attitude — along with a powerful, deadly-accurate right leg — that impressed coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg enough to make the difficult decision to part with Cundiff and instill their faith in a young man who’s never made as much as an extra point in an NFL game.

After spending the last six weeks as the hunter, Tucker’s standing with the Ravens now resets. Making 60-yard field goals during practices in Owings Mills or a 53-yarder against the Jacksonville Jaguars in August will win you the starting job, but those feats do nothing to insure the rookie will keep the starting job long-term.

Fortunes can turn quickly. Just ask the 2010 Pro Bowl kicker who finds himself unemployed less than two years later.

Tucker is seeing it firsthand as friends and teammates struggle to carve out spots on the 53-man roster, with some of them already having been told they weren’t good enough.

“I was just telling a couple of the other guys that it gets real, really fast,” Tucker said. “There are 90 guys here over the weekend, and after today, there [are] 75. So, it is pretty crazy how fast it all happens.”

As confident as Harbaugh and the Ravens are in Tucker’s ability, the reality is no one knows whether he will be able to handle the job. Admittedly in the best groove of his kicking career this summer, Tucker hasn’t dealt with the scrutiny that accompanies a rough stretch in which he misses a couple fields goals he’s expected to make.

But the coaching staff is betting that the maturity he exuded throughout the kicking competition will carry over if and when he pushes a 41-yarder wide right or has a 54-yard game-winning attempt blocked by a defensive lineman.

It happens to the best of them. The Ravens just hope it doesn’t come in the closing seconds of the AFC Championship game again.

“When you have a bad play or the momentum swings against you, you brush it off and you move on to the next one,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the same for kickers. I think he has what it takes to do that.”

Whether it’s unbreakable confidence or simply the naivety of a rookie, Tucker says he doesn’t think about failure. Depending on how you view it, the fact that he can’t recall any notable period at Texas in which he struggled might be a dangerous omen or the reflection of a young man who’s fortunate enough not to realize how difficult it can be to kick in the NFL.

As he’s done throughout the summer, Tucker intends to keep his focus on the next attempt, regardless of how high the stakes are raised in two weeks.

“[I] just think positively,” Tucker said. “And going back to what I’ve said about 100 times: ‘Just keep it simple, and take it one kick at a time.’ That’s all you can do.”

His collegiate career with the Longhorns figures to aid Tucker more than the typical rookie kicker’s college experience. Playing in front of 100,000 fans in Austin or making a 40-yard game-winner on the road against rival Texas A&M is as close as it gets to proper training for life as a kicker in the NFL.

CONTINUE >>>

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Ravens continue trimming roster down to 75

Posted on 26 August 2012 by Luke Jones

After news broke that they had waived veteran kicker Billy Cundiff earlier Sunday, the Ravens continued trimming their preseason roster from 90 players down to 75.

The most notable of the eight other players to be waived Sunday was tight end Davon Drew, who was a 2009 fifth-round pick of the Ravens but never established himself as a legitimate NFL player in Baltimore. Drew entered training camp as the favorite to win the third tight end job behind Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. However, he failed to take advantage of increased reps after the two tight ends went down with injuries this summer and was supplanted by veteran tight end Billy Bajema on the totem pole.

The Ravens also announced they had waived wide receivers Devin Goda and Patrick Wiliams, offensive lineman Addison Lawrence, center Cecil Newton, cornerback Jordan Maybin, long snapper Patrick Scales, and quarterback Chester Stewart.

Newton is the brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

The roster currently stands at 81 players and must be down to 75 by 4 p.m. Monday.

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Ravens release kicker Cundiff, award job to rookie Tucker

Posted on 26 August 2012 by Luke Jones

What appeared all but imminent became official Sunday morning as the Ravens released kicker Billy Cundiff, meaning rookie Justin Tucker has won the job for the 2012 season.

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter as the 2010 Pro Bowl kicker will not receive the opportunity to atone for his 32-yard miss in the AFC Championship game last January that would have sent the Ravens to overtime in Foxborough.

The writing appeared on the wall for the 32-year-old Cundiff after coach John Harbaugh elected to have Tucker handle all kicking duties in the Ravens’ 48-17 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday. Tucker connected on field goals from 33 and 53 yards while Cundiff watched from the sidelines, and Harbaugh’s comments since had been anything but a ringing endorsement for the incumbent kicker.

“Billy had a great camp, the best he has had with us,” Harbaugh said in a team statement. “He showed, like he always has, a toughness and an ability to come back and be a top-flight NFL kicker. These decisions are never easy, and this one was difficult for all of us – Ozzie [Newsome], Jerry [Rosburg] and me.

“Of course, that says something about Justin [Tucker], the way he has kicked and our belief in him. But, that does not say something less about Billy. Billy was ready in every way to be our kicker. He’ll kick in the NFL. He’s a very good kicker and an even better person.”

Tucker is 5-for-5 in the preseason and made 40 of 48 field goal attempts in his career at Texas.

Cundiff performed well during training camp and the preseason, but it was clear the rookie from Texas had kicked even better in his opportunities. While Cundiff will forever be defined in Baltimore by his miss against the Patriots, he struggled in 2011 while making 28 of 37 kicks during the regular season — all misses coming on the road — and was only 1-for-6 on tries from 50-plus yards.

The veteran was frustrated following Thursday’s preseason game as it appeared he knew his time was running out with the Ravens.

“Regardless of my track record, if you look at it in the last two years as a full-time kicker, inside of 50 yards, I’m about 90 percent,” Cundiff said. “If you look at the playoffs, I’m [11 of 12 in three seasons in Baltimore]. In the last two years, if you take all of my touchbacks combined, I have more touchbacks than anybody else in the league. I feel as if that’s not good enough, then I’ll take my services elsewhere.”

In January 2011, the Ravens signed Cundiff to a five-year, $15 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus. Releasing Cundiff clears his $2.2 million base salary from the cap this season — with a $600,000 cap hit remaining — but now leaves $1.8 million in dead money for the 2013 salary cap.

With Tucker reportedly making $390,000 this season, the Ravens will roughly save $1.8 million on the 2012 salary cap with this decision.

The Ravens must trim their preseason roster from 90 players to 75 by 4 p.m. Monday. The final cut-down to 53 players must take place by 9 p.m. Friday evening.

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Sizing up the Ravens roster after the third preseason game

Posted on 25 August 2012 by Luke Jones

With the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason now in the books for the Ravens, it’s time to take another look at projecting the 53-man roster for the first time since the aftermath of the first preseason game.

My current look at the roster suggests 42 players are locks — not including either of the two place kickers on the preseason roster — if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the roster lists 21 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

The latest projection includes six new players making the final 53-man roster with one spot opening up due to Emanuel Cook’s season-ending injury and five others previously projected to make the roster now finding themselves on the outside looking in.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Especially with the increased emphasis on boosting the lackluster special teams from a season ago, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ other abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 by 4 p.m. on Monday and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 by the 9 p.m. deadline on Friday.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 25.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
BUBBLE: Curtis Painter
LONG SHOT: Chester Stewart
Skinny: Taylor’s strong performance against Jacksonville quieted any silly notions that Painter was pushing him for the backup job. That was never the case, but the second-year quarterback looked more comfortable in the pocket after two uneven performances.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (6)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Vonta Leach
BUBBLE: Bobby Rainey, Anthony Allen
LONG SHOT: Damien Berry
Skinny: Pierce has shown enough to quell concerns about the backup running back job, but the Ravens could still be looking for a short-yardage back since Allen has been such a disappointment this preseason. Rainey has surpassed Allen for a roster spot after receiving work with the starting unit while the 2011 seventh-round pick didn’t even receive a carry against Jacksonville.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss
BUBBLE: Deonte Thompson, Tommy Streeter
LONG SHOT: Logan Payne, Dorian Graham, Patrick Williams, Devin Goda
INJURED: David Reed (will begin season on physically unable to perform list and not count against the 53-man roster)
Skinny: Considering Streeter didn’t receive any action until late in the second half, it’s clear he’s lagging behind Thompson in the race for the sixth spot — assuming there is a sixth one — on the final roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if Streeter’s foot injury lands him on injured reserve at this point, but his chances of making the team are remote.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta
BUBBLE: Billy Bajema, Matt Balasavage
LONG SHOT: Bruce Figgins, Davon Drew
Skinny: The veteran Bajema is in line for the third tight end job while the rookie free agent Balasavage has moved past Drew in the race for a spot. Though Balasavage has shown some skill as a receiver, Bajema’s ability to block helps his cause for the job.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Bobbie Williams, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid
BUBBLE: Ramon Harewood, Justin Boren, Tony Wragge
LONG SHOT: Jack Cornell, Cecil Newton, Antoine McClain, Addison Lawrence, Cord Howard
Skinny: With Reid still dealing with the calf injury and Osemele now receiving more extensive work at guard, Harewood could grab a roster spot instead of Boren to boost the Ravens’ depth at offensive tackle. However, he might only be a short-term option until Reid recovers and the Ravens can devote the roster spot elsewhere.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (11)

CONTINUE >>>

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Writing on wall for Cundiff as he sits Thursday night

Posted on 24 August 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A 48-17 win in what’s commonly referred to as the dress rehearsal for the regular season went as well as the Ravens could have reasonably hoped.

That is, for everyone other than incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff, who was left standing on the sideline hoping for another opportunity to hold onto the job he’s held for the last 2 1/2 seasons.

But after rookie kicker Justin Tucker handled all kicking duties and converted six extra points and field goals from 33 and 53 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars, even Cundiff might be starting to see the writing on the wall. The 32-year-old appears to be in grave danger of losing his job, and there’s nothing he could do about it Thursday as he watched Tucker perform flawlessly.

He wasn’t happy about it following the game.

“I found out before this game that I wasn’t going to get any reps, which shocked me,” Cundiff said. “I felt like I had a really good week of practice. So, it’ll just play itself out.”

How much longer it will take to make a decision remains to be seen as the Ravens made a bold move in allowing the rookie to play the entire game while Cundiff was relegated to pre-game work to stay sharp. It appears there’s no turning back after Tucker didn’t stub his toe while owning the full spotlight at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night.

Coach John Harbaugh offered his explanation following the game, saying the Ravens needed an opportunity to better evaluate what the rookie could do over the course of an entire game. Tucker passed with flying colors.

“Billy has had a great, great camp. He’s done really well,” Harbaugh said. “I think we know Billy. Billy would have come in here and made every one of those kicks, and when we kicked it deep, he would have kicked every one into the back of the end zone. Billy has proven. ‘Tuck’ has not proven. This is something that he needed. We needed to see if he could handle a whole game from beginning to end and have that pressure on him, and obviously he handled it very well.”

The Ravens had to know the potential firestorm this would create with the incumbent kicker, who clearly wasn’t fond of the competition being taken out of his hands. And while the words of praise uttered by Harbaugh sounded good, it almost reminded you of a person offering the “it’s not you, it’s me” line to someone they’re about to dump.

How can the organization go in any other direction now but to choose the rookie as their guy and to part ways with the man who missed the 32-yard field goal in the AFC Championship last January?

Knowing that the question of how much we should read into Thursday’s decision was going to be asked following the game, Harbaugh’s answer hardly sounded reassuring that it was still Cundiff’s job to lose. He easily could have said Cundiff would receive opportunities in the final preseason game Thursday in St. Louis, but the Baltimore coach didn’t.

“We have to make some decisions here again next week,” Harbaugh said. “So, we’ll just have to see how that goes.”

Rumors swirled Thursday evening that the Ravens will not only part ways with the 2010 Pro Bowl kicker but could do it before the final cut-down day on Aug. 31, which would provide the professional courtesy of giving Cundiff more time to potentially find a new team. It makes sense as there’s no point in delaying the inevitable if they’re sold on the idea of Tucker being their kicker for the 2012 season.

In January 2011, the Ravens signed Cundiff to a five-year, $15 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus. Releasing Cundiff would save $2.2 million in cap room this season — with a $600,000 cap hit remaining — but that would leave $1.8 million in dead money for the 2013 salary cap.

Clearly feeling the sting of not being able to compete, you could almost sense in Cundiff’s tone and words that he might be resigned to the fact that he’ll be moving on sooner rather than later.

“Regardless of my track record, if you look at it in the last two years as a full-time kicker, inside of 50 yards, I’m about 90 percent,” Cundiff said. “If you look at the playoffs, I’m [11 of 12 in three seasons in Baltimore]. In the last two years, if you take all of my touchbacks combined, I have more touchbacks than anybody else in the league. I feel as if that’s not good enough, then I’ll take my services elsewhere.”

What had already been an awkward situation with Tucker forcing the issue so dramatically this summer after Harbaugh had proclaimed Cundiff to be the Ravens’ kicker early in the offseason grew even more uncomfortable Thursday night.

Yes, after a summer full of flirting, the Ravens might be on the verge of moving on with someone else.

“Let’s be honest, I feel I’ve been through enough,” Cundiff said. “There’s not a single thing that someone could throw at me that I’m not prepared for. I know 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 questioning whether I would be able to kick, or whatever the case may be. I feel I proved throughout training camp that I came in prepared. Regardless of what’s been thrown at me or the situation that I’m in, I feel I’m ready to kick.”

Cundiff’s right. He has performed well this summer.

But it’s looking more and more like he might have been auditioning for a job with another team.

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Ravens-Lions preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Poised for a better showing after a poor first half in their 31-17 win in the preseason opener, the Ravens welcome the Detroit Lions to M&T Bank Stadium on Friday night.

Welcoming Detroit head coach and Mount St. Joseph graduate Jim Schwartz to town and taking on the Lions for the third time ever in the preseason — Baltimore holds a 2-0 mark — the Ravens hope to begin with a better tempo than they did in Atlanta last week when they were outgained 191-9 in total yards through the first 15 minutes of play. After struggling in all three phases of the game last week, the Ravens will encounter an explosive passing offense that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson as well as an intimidating defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh.

“We always want to come out and get a fast start, but there’s nothing better than a great finish,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “If you have to choose, you are going to want to finish well. I thought our guys finished well. I thought the first group finished well on their last opportunity, and that’s a big thought for us, finishing everything we are doing.”

The Ravens have won 11 of their last 13 preseason games as coach John Harbaugh said we can expect to see starters for most of the first half. As was the case last week, some starters will see more extensive action than others and it will all depend on the flow of the game.

Many will continue to monitor the performance of replacement officials as the NFL continues to impose a lockout of its regular officials. While the most notable problem from the Ravens’ preseason opener was referee Craig Ochoa referring to the Falcons as “Arizona” on a few occasions, there were other problems throughout the league ranging from spotting the ball incorrectly to mismanaging the opening coin toss.

Baltimore is trying to take the high road when it comes to any potential critiques of replacement officials.

“Basically we said, ‘You respect them.’” Harbaugh said. “They are the officials, and these guys are guys that have been doing it for quite a while, and they know what they are doing. I thought our last game they did pretty well for the first time out there. There are always some miscues. We had plenty of miscues ourselves.”

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Harbaugh would not offer much Tuesday about the status of any player dealing with an injury, leaving us to wonder whether the likes of wide receiver Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith will suit up and play against the Lions. It will also be interesting to see if the Ravens clear rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw for his first preseason action. His level of participation in practices increased this week as he continues to recover from a sprained shoulder.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: LB Josh Bynes (back), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: WR Tandon Doss (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (back), LB Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), OT Jah Reid (calf), WR Devin Goda (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring), WR Jacoby Jones (leg), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), C Matt Birk (back), S Ed Reed (knee)

Five players to watch Friday night

1. OL Kelechi Osemele

Most of us have assumed that Bryant McKinnie would eventually man the left tackle spot and Michael Oher would play on the right side after the former reported late to training camp as he said he was dealing with a back injury, but the Ravens still don’t appear to have decided on what they want to do at those positions. The rookie Osemele has complicated the situation further by playing at an impressive level during training camp as the Ravens feel they got an absolute steal with the 60th overall pick in April.

Osemele’s great athleticism and maturity beyond his years have contributed to the coaching staff giving him extensive consideration at right tackle even though the safe play would be to revert back to last year’s tackle combination of McKinnie and Oher. The Iowa State rookie still needs to become a more consistent pass blocker, but he appears to be a far more serious candidate to start than anyone would have realistically expected at the start of camp. His ability to move inside is also a nice insurance policy to have with left guard Bobbie Williams coming off major ankle surgery in the offseason.

2. K Billy Cundiff

I stated at the start of training camp that rookie Justin Tucker would only be able to win the kicking job if he performed at an extremely high level while the veteran Cundiff stubbed his toe along the way. Tucker has been outstanding throughout training camp even though Cundiff had also been very good until this week.

On Monday, Cundiff missed short field goals from 24 and 34 yards and couldn’t convert a pair beyond 50 yards on Wednesday while Tucker continued to kick with ice water in his veins, only missing a 52-yard field goal this week while making all other tries. The veteran will really be feeling the pressure if he doesn’t have a good night in front of a home crowd that hasn’t exactly been forgiving in the realm of social media whenever his kicking miscues have been reported this summer.

Regardless of how Cundiff performs, the crowd response alone will be interesting to watch.

3. TE Billy Bajema

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