Tag Archive | "steve hauschka"

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Former Raven Hauschka goes from undrafted rookie to Super Bowl kicker

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Staff

QUOTES FROM SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MEDIA DAY

KICKER STEVEN HAUSCHKA

(on if head coach Pete Carroll trusts him) “We always want to be in a position to succeed. Even though I could make that kick (in the NFC Championship), sometimes you just go off your gut instinct.”

(on if selfishness entered the decision to kick the NFC Championship field goal) “I’m not sure about that. I wasn’t thinking about that being selfish or unselfish. It was just the right decision to make at the time.”

(on if he would be more inclined to kick it in the Super Bowl) “No, it just depends on the situation and how I am feeling. How the wind is at that moment. I’m more in-tune with the wind than all of the fans, all of the media and all of the coaches, generally. I have a good idea of when I do want to kick and when I don’t want to kick. When it comes down to a toss-up like that, I’ll share my opinion with (Head) Coach (Pete Carroll) and then we’ll make a decision.”

(on if his background in neuroscience garners trust from Pete Carroll) “I never knew it would be such a good deal. I just thought it was the right decision for our team. Not that it is my call as a player, but I did want to weigh in on how I thought the wind was affecting that kick. In doing that, that probably did help the team.”

(on if he has reached out to Giants or Jets specialists about kicking at Metlife Stadium) “I’m going to reach out to (Giants P) Steve Weatherford this week. I have a pretty good idea of what is going on in there. I have played a couple of games there. We’ll get a practice in there on Wednesday. I’m not too worried about it.”

(on being an undrafted free agent and on how special this moment is for him) “It’s super cool. I’ll probably have a moment of realization after the season where it is like, ‘Wow, that was cool.’ But for right now, we are seriously just trying to focus as much as we can on the game. We are trying to enjoy it all, but at the same time, stick with your routines that you have been doing all season long. When you stick to your routine, then it puts your mind in a place to succeed.”

(on if he has any special preparation for this weekend) “No, the special thing is fighting human nature, because human nature makes you want to try harder. It makes you want to give a little bit extra. So, for us, we are trying to fight that and just keep everything normal like it is another game.”

(on playing together with Matt Prater in Denver) “It’s pretty cool. Matt is a great kicker. We’re friends off the field, the same with (P) Britton Colquitt. I spent about six to eight months on the Broncos and got to know both of them. I like the organization and I like both of them.”

(on the spotlight and potential for a kick to win the Super Bowl) “I’m just trying to treat it like another game. Kickers can always decide a game, whether it’s a preseason or a regular season game. I’m not going to do anything different. It sounds crazy, but I’m going to try to do the same thing that I do in a preseason game or a regular season game because that’s the mentality it takes.”

(on if there is any trash talking between him and Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt) “It hasn’t gotten to that point. We’re all good friends and both sides are happy someone is going to hold the Lombardi Trophy, at the end of the day. We’re all friends and we all like each other.”

(on the possibility of being the Super Bowl MVP) “It’s always a possibility. It’s not a goal by any means. I just want to have a good solid performance.”

(on if he has had a chance to enjoy New York since he arrived) “I grew up in Boston and have seen a lot of the sights here, just visiting since I was in high school. Not too much sightseeing, but a lot of my high school friends and college friends live here and work here. I went to dinner with them last night.”

(on thinking about going to dental school) “My mom was a dentist. My brother was a dentist. It just kind of seemed like a good career path. I was taking pre-med classes and ended up getting into dental school. Then there was a period where I was at NC State, and I was interviewing at dental schools, got into them, and I had to decide whether I was going to go to dental school next year or am I going to try to play in the NFL. It was pretty crazy, but I obviously chose the NFL.”

(on what his Mom and brother said about his decision) “They were proud. They were encouraging. They said (I) could always come back to dental school.”

(on his hard work in college taking premed courses and playing football) “You work hard there. You really learn how to manage your time. There’s no one pushing you along, helping you out. You have to do it all yourself. I’m fortunate to have grown up with that work ethic. I enjoyed my time there.”

(on if there is a difference between football intelligence and academic intelligence) “Yes. My first couple of years, I definitely over-analyzed things, maybe tried a little too hard with my mind, try to make up for some other things. I’ve learned now that the key now is to analyze these things but then you have to shut it off mentally. At the end of the day, athletes don’t analyze, they just go off their instincts and their trusts. That’s what I have learned.”

(on Seattle not having a championship team is almost 35 years and on how it feels to be so close) “The city is dying for it. You could feel it when we left to go to the airport and we had 30 minutes straight of fans lined up. They are hungry for a championship. They lost their Supersonics and they are hoping their Seahawks can pull it out.”

(on if he has ever played soccer) “Yes, I played soccer my whole life up until my sophomore year of college.”

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Your Monday Reality Check: Congrats kid, now don’t miss

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Your Monday Reality Check: Congrats kid, now don’t miss

Posted on 27 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

I probably should’ve saved a few hundred of the words I spent on last week’s missive about the Baltimore Ravens’ kicking competition.

Hey, at least I’m going to save you from a story about my 16th birthday party. (Although if you really want to know the details you can always feel free to email me. I always have stories.)

I’m glad our own Drew Forrester has taken the time to commend former K Billy Cundiff over and over again for how he handled himself after missing a crucial kick that cost the team a chance to send the AFC Championship Game to overtime. Drew has been right to point out that Cundiff could have made excuses, could have dodged reporters, could have gone into hiding and waited to hear his fate after an underwhelming season.

He didn’t do that. He manned up. It truly is commendable.

There’s a caveat to our praise however. The fact is that we all know that if Cundiff had made the kick and then given the Heisman to media members postgame we wouldn’t have batted an eye.

The fact is that the only thing any of us (rightly) care about was that in a situation where a team (and a city) counted on one player to do their job, the job wasn’t done.

We’ve been through this exercise repeatedly in the months since the Ravens fell just short of a Super Bowl return. I actually have no interest whatsoever in reliving that moment and determining what happened or who deserves blame. I’m just reminding everyone that while Drew is right to commend Billy Cundiff, there’s an obvious reason why such praise isn’t prevailing throughout Charm City to start the week.

I could not begin to tell you whether or not the Ravens made the right decision by releasing Cundiff Sunday and sticking with rookie K Justin Tucker for the 2012 season. I understand the reasoning behind the decision (I’m pretty sure I made a compelling argument for both specialists last Monday) and support the organization in making the move.

I also fought off the urge to headline this column “Good Tuck, kid” so I feel like I deserve a bit of credit here.

Tucker has a great opportunity to establish himself as an above average kicker for a franchise finally moving past the significant shadow of Matt Stover. Tucker has the opportunity to not just make crucial kicks for the Ravens in 2012, but perhaps also for future Ravens teams both competing for Super Bowl titles and (unfortunately) just trying to stay afloat in the AFC North.

Based on my early conversations with Tucker (the most recent of which-from last Wednesday’s episode of “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net-can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault), I have every reason to believe Tucker is aware of the opportunity in front of him. He seems like an intelligent young man with what we can already tell is an exceptionally capable leg.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Your Monday Reality Check: This is just plain awkward at this point

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Your Monday Reality Check: This is just plain awkward at this point

Posted on 20 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

For me, it was probably my 15th birthday party.

ESPNZone had just opened in the Inner Harbor about a month earlier and I wanted absolutely nothing more than to check it out. I convinced my parents to let me have a party there after weeks of haggling.

The agreement came with one significant stipulation. As my parents were by no means wealthy people (although clearly I was more fortunate than others), they informed me I could only bring three friends.

I knew then that the decision I made would easily be the most agonizing of my entire life.

(You probably think I’m being sarcastic. With the gift of hindsight, it’s understandable. But think back to the time you had to make a similar decision. Remember how significant you thought it was? I thought so.)

I was obviously going to bring Brandon, as he and I had been hanging out together almost every day that summer. I had also figured I would take Matt, one of my buddies since first grade. The third choice was by far and away the most difficult. Ryan and Andy were stepbrothers, so how was I going to pick one and not the other? Billy had invited me to his cool birthday party earlier that year, so maybe I owed him. Adam was having a paintball themed birthday later in the month, I definitely didn’t want my decision to jeopardize an invite to his party. And for perhaps the first time in my young life I thought perhaps it was more important to consider inviting a GIRL (Leslie) instead of one of my buddies.

I remember thinking “perhaps I could cheat the system.” I tried convincing my parents I couldn’t invite Ryan without inviting Andy. I tried seeing if they would allow me to invite a fourth if I promised to invite one fewer friend to my 16th birthday. I told them Brandon shouldn’t count against the limit because he was basically living with us that summer anyway. I had hoped to find out someone wouldn’t be able to come anyway because their family already had plans.

I wish I could tell you I remembered who I picked. I don’t. I just remembered how awkward the whole process was.

I’m assuming by this point you clearly see the analogy I’m trying to make between my 15th birthday party and the Baltimore Ravens’ preseason kicking competition. How could you possibly not? I’m laying it on so thick!

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Luke Jones

As the start of free agency moves closer and teams prepare for April’s draft, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

Earlier in the week, I looked at Baltimore’s biggest needs on offense as well as essentials for the defense. In the conclusion of a three-part series, we finally take a long at the often-forgotten but always-important phase of the game: special teams.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly receives the most criticism among the coaches on the Ravens staff, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may deserve the most heat after a disappointing 2011 season. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens’ special teams ranked 30th in the league in a percentage contrived from efficiency in field goals, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.

Looking from a more simplistic stance, Rosburg’s units struggled in both kickoff coverage (31st) and punt coverage (24th) and allowed three returns for touchdowns. In the return game, the Ravens ranked ninth in kickoff return average and 19th in punt return average, rarely getting a significant spark from either group as injuries and ineffectiveness forced them to shuffle returners in and out of the lineup.

Kicker Billy Cundiff converted only 75.7 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking 28th in the league. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker made only one of six attempts from 50 or more yards and was only 11-for-20 away from M&T Bank Stadium — where he was perfect on 17 attempts. And that’s not even taking into account his heartbreaking 32-yard miss in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that would have sent the Ravens into overtime against New England.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, punter Sam Koch ranked 10th in punt average (46.5 yards) but 19th in net average, which was affected by the Ravens’ suspect coverage.

While it’s difficult to target a laundry list of special teams’ needs from a position-by-position standpoint — the units simply need to improve across the board — but two positions stand out this offseason.

1. Kicker

Before you get carried away, this isn’t the pitchfork mentality we’re talking about here. Cundiff isn’t going anywhere for now. However, his disappointing season topped off by the most devastating moment in the 16-year history of the franchise can’t be forgotten as the Ravens assess their special teams.

To their credit, the organization and Cundiff have handled the miss with as much dignity as can be expected, with no one publicly questioning whether the Ravens should have kept veteran Shayne Graham to kick in the postseason. It’s been a credit to coach John Harbaugh and the family atmosphere in the locker room.

But what everyone is thinking privately is a different story. In his defense, Cundiff battled a left calf injury late in the season, but it doesn’t excuse what was a very inconsistent year after signing a five-year contract last January. For a kicker without a proven track record beyond his Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cundiff may have reverted back to the inconsistent performer seen early in his career.

The Ravens need to bring in another kicker to seriously compete against Cundiff during the preseason. The organization will keep Cundiff for now in hopes of avoiding the situation in which they found themselves in 2009 after parting company with Matt Stover. Neither Steve Hauschka nor Graham Gano were fit for the job, forcing the Ravens to scramble during the regular season until they settled on Cundiff.

It needs to be a serious competition, whether the Ravens elect to find a rookie coming out of college such as Randy Bullock of Texas A&M or a veteran on the open market. Graham wasn’t good enough to win the competition against Cundiff two years ago and has struggled with long-distance kicks in recent years, so it makes little sense to bring him back for the competition.

Even if Cundiff performs admirably in the preseason and wins the battle, the Ravens and their fans simply won’t know whether he’s recovered from the disappointment in Foxborough until he finds himself in another late-game situation. It’s difficult to envision the Ravens ever fully trusting Cundiff again, but they’ll at least give him a chance in the preseason before moving on for good.

2. Kickoff-Punt Returner

The Ravens had 10 different players return kickoffs — three of those only returned squibs or pooch kicks –  in 2011 and never found stability at the position. Second-year return specialist David Reed was demoted after two fumbles on returns against the Seattle Seahawks and then tore his ACL when he finally earned another opportunity to handle kickoffs.

While Reed will certainly find himself in the mix if he proves healthy in recovering from the knee injury this offseason, the Ravens must look to add an impact returner, preferably someone who can handle both kickoffs and punts to allow Lardarius Webb to focus solely on his duties at cornerback. Field position is critical, and the return units rarely aided the Ravens offense in setting it up on a shorter field.

Of course, the new kickoff rule limited many returners across the league, but the Ravens cannot settle for a returner downing the ball in the end zone constantly as they did down the stretch with reserve safety Tom Zbikowski this past season.

The Ravens could look to the draft for a returner such as Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the middle rounds, who could add depth in both areas. One name to keep an eye on in the preseason is receiver Phillip Livas, who was signed to the practice squad in the final weeks of the season. Though only 5-foot-8, Livas was a record-setting return man at Louisiana Tech and could be a sleeper to watch in the preseason.

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Ranking The 53: A Bye Week Look at Ravens Roster

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Ranking The 53: A Bye Week Look at Ravens Roster

Posted on 27 October 2010 by Glenn Clark

As you’ll remember, I spent most of Training Camp ranking the players on the Baltimore Ravens roster as we tried to determine the Top 53 that would make the final roster.

As we’ve reached the team’s Bye Week, I thought I’d use a similar format (as opposed to a Report Card format) to grade the way the 53 men currently on the team’s roster have played thus far this season. Here’s my list…

53. OL Scott Kooistra-He hasn’t seen the field and he hasn’t been around very long. I’m not sure where else he could be ranked.

52. DT Arthur Jones-The team isn’t dissatisfied with the rookie DT from Syracuse. The issue for Jones is that the Ravens are so deep on the interior of their D-Line that they haven’t been able to get Jones on the field yet. Until then, he won’t find himself any higher on the list.

51. WR Donte’ Stallworth-Stallworth’s broken foot has kept him entirely out of game action thus far, and he only returned to practice last week. The team expects him to be on the field Week 9 against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Once he gets out there, we can see where he’d rank on this list.

50. QB Marc Bulger-If Marc Bulger never sees the field and stays somewhere near #50, GM Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh will be thrilled-as it means nothing will have gone wrong with the team’s quarterback. This is exactly where they want him.

49. DT Lamar Divens-It seems like Lamar Divens will always be the first name listed when the “who could you cut to make room for…” conversations happen. That being said, he hasn’t been cut yet this season, and has even seen the field at times. He’s a really good player-even if it hasn’t quite been evident yet this season.

48. TE Dennis Pitta-His offensive contributions (1 catch, 1 yard) have been next to nothing, but Pitta has been a solid special teams contributor and has only been inactive for one game. No one in Owings Mills is unhappy with their rookie TE from BYU thus far.

47. CB Cary Williams-He’s been more of a Special Teams contributor than he’s been a corner thus far this season-and he hasn’t been perfect. His block in the back penalty against the New England Patriots was certainly frustrating; and Harbaugh made it known. Williams’ size (6’1″) could make him helpful at CB at some point, but the team has to trust him there.

46. OT Oniel Cousins-The team didn’t really hide from the fact that they were disappointed by how long it took Oniel to get back on the field after a preseason concussion. At this point, I don’t think they can hide from the disappointment in his on-field performance; as he’s struggled to get playing time at all.

45. LB Prescott Burgess-He’s remained a steady player on Special Teams, and that’s what the team has wanted from him. It’s easy to be down a player who doesn’t contribute at his natural position, but Burgess has been solid.

44. LS Morgan Cox-Matt Katula’s struggles a season ago were at least somewhat to blame for early season misses from then kicker Steve Hauschka. I think that’s why it wasn’t terribly surprising when ST Coordinator Jerry Rosburg and company decided to go with Cox this season. That being said, Cox has been low on a few FG snaps, and has gotten some help from holder Sam Koch. He needs to be a bit steadier.

43. WR Marcus Smith-Smith is another player whose contributions have been limited to Special Teams thus far, which means his mistakes are often much more memorable than anything he does well. He had a tough day in Foxborough, but he wasn’t the only one.

42. DT Terrence Cody-What a frustrating player Terrence Cody has been this season. There’s moments where it looks like things are clicking for him, but there have been many more moments (in the 4 games where he’s played) where he looked absolutely lost. He didn’t record his first NFL tackle until the Week 7 win over the Buffalo Bills.

41. LB Jason Phillips-Phillips may have earned a couple of extra spots on the list simply thanks to the hit he and Edgar Jones delivered to Denver Broncos WR/KR Demaryius Thomas (see below) in Week 5. Phillips is in a tough spot, as the Ravens are deep at ILB. That being said, he’s made an impact in the opportunities he’s had-which is exactly what the team wanted.

ravensbroncos

40. DE Paul Kruger-I’m placing Paul Kruger in the top 40, but I’ll note that he’s played in only two games thus far this season-two he may have never played in had the team not released Trevor Pryce earlier in the year. His ability to play in the wedge has helped get him on the field, but the kick return hasn’t exactly been great with or without him.

39. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-Ayanbadejo is another player who I’m squeezing into the Top 40 despite limited work. It looks like Ayanbadejo is going to be able to continue to be an effective player on Special Teams; but his ability to help is pass coverage will determine where he eventually ends up on this list.

38. RB/KR Jalen Parmele-It’s easy to look at the struggles Parmele has had over the last two weeks and be down on his season; but it cannot be dismissed that he’s averaged over 20 yards per return this season. The Ravens have to figure out what’s going wrong with their kick return. My guess is that they’ll find out that the returner isn’t the biggest problem. My second guess is that it won’t mean Parmele will be the returner moving forward anyway.

37. S Ken Hamlin-When the Ravens released Hamlin to make room for Cary Williams earlier in the season, it looked like a confirmation that Hamlin was simply holding Ed Reed’s roster spot. About a week later we found out that wasn’t exactly the case. Hamlin has been effective on Special Teams and has offered something to Greg Mattison’s defense as well-at least until he was left inactive for the first time Week 7. That could be bad news moving forward for Hamlin.

36. WR David Reed-After looking like he might not be able to play Special Teams at all, Reed developed into a very trustworthy gunner for the Ravens over the first few weeks of the season and has taken more snaps as a returner during practice as the season has gone on. That being said, it is interesting to note that Reed was held out of Sunday’s game against the Bills. It had at least SOMETHING to do with a thigh injury, but it will be interesting to see if it was the injury ONLY, or if the injury was just part of it.

35. TE Ed Dickson-Dickson is an interesting case. In the game against the Broncos, his 58 yard 1st quarter catch was eye-opening. His 6’4″ frame clearly makes him an attractive downfield and jump-ball target. But his holding penalty later in the game was an example of exactly why OC Cam Cameron may not fully trust him enough to keep him on the field. My guess is that Dickson is headed towards some level of a breakout performance.

34. LB Tavares Gooden-I get the feeling that I could be showing a little bit too much fairness to Gooden, who was adequate in the two games he played before injuring his shoulder. He probably hasn’t done enough to justify the position, but I’ll keep him here for now. How he bounces back from another setback (and whether or not he can return in Week 9) could have a lot to do with his future in Charm City.

33. CB Josh Wilson-This is really tricky as well. Wilson has by no means been a liability on the field; but he’s done little to prove himself thus far. He’s missed two games (a healthy inactive when the Ravens played the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field; an ankle injury kept him out of the loss to the Pats at Gillette Stadium), and he hasn’t been perfect as a returner. But when Secondary coach Chuck Pagano need an answer late against the Bills, Wilson stepped up.

32. WR TJ Houshmandzadeh-Truth be told, I’m completely befuddled by TJ Houshmandzadeh’s short tenure in Baltimore. I don’t think he’s been misused, I don’t think Joe Flacco has failed to look for him or get him the ball, I don’t think he’s necessarily been awful in doing his own job (although I absolutely think he’s given half efforts to catch the ball-which was abundantly evident when the Ravens played the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium). I’m not sure what Houshmandzadeh’s role is moving forward as Stallworth returns. No matter what it is, his catch to beat the Steelers will never be forgotten.

31. OL Tony Moll-Moll has shown himself to be a particularly reliable reserve on the O-Line; he’s been the team’s top reserve this season. In fact, he was on the field at RT when the Ravens put together their final TD drive to get the first win of the Harbaugh era in the Steel City.

tonymoll

30. DT Brandon McKinney-McKinney has quickly become the team’s top reserve along the D-Line, and has played VERY well he’s seen the field this season. He’s probably better as a NT or as an interior tackle in a 4-3 defense, but he’s been outstanding filling multiple roles for DL coach Clarence Brooks.

29. S Haruki Nakamura-Nakamura’s playing time has decreased since the start of the season, but it’s not because he’s performed poorly. Nakamura was both the 3rd safety and the nickel corner in the Ravens’ season opening Monday Night Football win over the New York Jets, but the improved health of the team has limited his role. His play has been effective throughout the season no matter his role.

28. CB Lardarius Webb-After missing the season opener at New Meadowlands Stadium, Webb has been up and down in the six games he’s played. At times he’s been spectacular, including two big pass breakups in the win over the Steelers. At other times he’s been less than spectacular, including the loss to the Bills. Webb stepped in for Zbikowski at PR against the Bills as well, but is unlikely to remain a long term option there.

27. DL Cory Redding-This is somewhat of a tricky judgment as well. Redding has played well, but was supposed to be able to get off the field in obvious passing situations this season to allow for a better rush end option. Sadly, the Ravens don’t have a better rush end option. Redding has just one sack on the season, and that number is unlikely to get much bigger.

26. LB Dannell Ellerbe-If Dannell Ellerbe didn’t have to play in pass coverage, he probably would find himself in the Top 15. Of course, there are a number of LB’s in the NFL who could say the same thing. Ellerbe has been solid but not spectacular, and has not exactly shown himself to be an “answer” for the Ravens at JACK LB.

25. OL Chris Chester-The Ravens would certainly prefer to have Chester coming off the bench and taking snaps at multiple positions; but the back injury to Jared Gaither has forced him into a starting role at RG. Chester hasn’t been perfect, but at no point has he been any sort of liability.

24. LB Jameel McClain-McClain has thus far been the most consistent answer at JACK LB, but he probably hasn’t solidified the position the way the team may have hoped he would. McClain has been solid, but has not been able to make too many plays in the backfield. Opponents have also been surprisingly able to run the ball with effectiveness (none more than Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis), which has to fall on the entire group-including McClain.

23. OL Marshal Yanda-No one has forgotten about Jared Gaither in Baltimore, but Marshal Yanda has solidified the RT position after a few early season struggles. Yanda is still better served playing at the Guard position, but he’s shown his athleticism and ability to both pass block and run block at the RT position.

22. S Ed Reed-There’s little argument for me ranking a player who has seen the field for just one game this high; but the argument exists. Of course, it is a very short argument-based solely on the fact that despite playing in just one game, Reed leads the team in interceptions. He looked like the Ed Reed of old against the Bills, giving the organization every reason to believe he’ll continue to play at a high level.

21. RB Willis McGahee-We might never TRULY know why McGahee didn’t see the field against the Pats, but he’s been very good every other time he’s seen the field. McGahee has been a solid back in both short yardage and goal line situations, is an effective blocker, and can take consecutive handoffs. If for some reason Ray Rice were to get hurt, the Ravens would be fine at RB.

mcgahee

20. C Matt Birk-Birk might not play at a Pro Bowl level necessarily anymore, but he’s still very good. He had some struggles early on this season, but he’s played very well in recent weeks. The Ravens may not have a center of the future on the roster necessarily, but they’re still just fine right now.

19. DT Kelly Gregg-Gregg has been just as steady as always this season; tallying 30 tackles and taking on double teams the same way he’s done since his breakout year in 2002. The only potential knock on Gregg has been a lack of plays made in the backfield.

18. S/PR Tom Zbikowski-The Ravens have been very happy with the play they’ve received from Zbikowski this season-especially while Reed missed the first six weeks of the season. Fans haven’t been thrilled with Zbikowski as punt returner-but since inexplicably running the ball backwards in East Rutherford, he’s been solid in that role as well. Zbikowski missed Game 7 with a bruised heel, but isn’t expected to be out for an extended period of time.

17. S Dawan Landry-I feel like we keep getting back to the Buffalo game with Ravens defenders-but that tends to be what happens when a team gives up 34 points at home. Landry had been very solid until that game however, and has 52 tackles through seven games this season.

16. CB Chris Carr-The best thing to happen to the Ravens in the wake of the Domonique Foxworth injury has been the play of Carr. Carr has been particularly steady starting opposite Fabian Washington. The team would probably like to see him improve a bit on the one interception and five pass deflections he’s posted thus far this season.

15. LB Jarret Johnson-The only disappointment with Johnson this season has been his lack of involvement in the pass rush. He’s tallied just half a sack thus far to go with 28 tackles. He’s been good, he’s just not quite played to the level he played at a season ago when he compiled six sacks.

14. K Billy Cundiff-The name Shayne Graham has LONG been forgotten at 1 Winning Drive. Cundiff has been incredible on kickoffs, tallying 18 touchbacks this season. He had entered the season with just 11 touchbacks for his CAREER. Cundiff is also 10/12 on field goal attempts; with one of the two misses coming in the goofy open end of the stadium at Heinz Field. There really isn’t much more that can be said about Cundiff, he’s been tremendous this season.

13. P Sam Koch-While I’m at it, Koch has been outstanding this season as well. He’s pinned punts inside the 20 yard line 19 times already this season. Some of his yardage numbers are a bit off this season, as the Ravens have had better field position in general this season. Oakland Raiders P Shane Lechler is still probably having a better season; but Koch has to at least be in consideration for a trip to Hawaii.

12. OT Michael Oher-Oher won’t want to hear the name Jermaine Cunningham any time soon, but otherwise he’s avoided a sophomore slump. Oher has answered almost all questions about his ability to play the LT position, even if he isn’t quite Jonathan Ogden just yet. He LOOKS like he’s offsides more than he actually IS offsides, with the only exception being the Patriots game.

11. LB Terrell Suggs-There’s a misconception that T-Sizzle is having a bad season. That’s simply not true. Suggs has played very well at times, and has clearly developed into a very complete all-around LB. The problem is-the Ravens don’t necessarily need an improved all-around LB on the outside. They REALLY need a pass rushing monster, and Suggs (3.5 sacks) just isn’t that guy right now, nor may he ever be again.

suggs

10. G Ben Grubbs-Grubbs has been the team’s most consistent Offensive Lineman thus far this season, and is setting himself up nicely for a potential Pro Bowl trip. As the team’s longest tenured O-Lineman, Grubbs has been significantly important for the team in maintaining continuity in a season where they have been forced to move pieces around.

9. TE Todd Heap-The Ravens thought that drafting two tight ends would help keep Heap fresh by getting him off the field for a handful of snaps every game. They also thought that signing multiple receivers in the offseason would help free up space on the field for Joe Flacco to find Heap. They’ve been right about both things. Heap has still taken a beating this season (thanks in part to Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather), but he’s on pace to have at least his best offensive season since 2006.

8. CB Fabian Washington-Don’t start cursing at your computer screen just yet. I am well aware that Lee Evans treated Washington like Sidney Rice would Frank Walker in the Ravens’ loss to the Bills. However, in the six games before that-Washington was a significant part of why the Ravens had one of the top pass defenses in the NFL (now ranked 8th for the record). Washington’s future standing on this list will of course have everything to do with how he bounces back from what was a dreadful Week 7 performance.

7. WR Derrick Mason-Remember him? Mason might not be on pace for a 1,000 yard season; but when they’ve needed him-he’s been ready to make plays. He was the team’s leading receiver in two very tough road games (at Pittsburgh and at New England), and he caught the only touchdown of the game in the Ravens’ Week 2 loss in the Queen City. Mason is just as reliable as always, and still catches the football…with the exception of the handful of times the team has decided for some goofy reason to try to throw jump balls in the direction of his 5’10″ frame.

6. RB Ray Rice-Fantasy football owners may not be quite as happy with Ray Rice’s performance as I am; but he’s been very good this season. He’s on pace to finish the season with over 1,400 yards of total offense; and should be able to remain fresh the more the Ravens work McGahee into the offense. Rice was expected to be a Top 3 caliber player on this list, but the lack of a breakaway burst appears to be hurting him right now. If that re-appears, he might show himself to be the type of MVP candidate he was a season ago.

5. LB Ray Lewis-Let me get this out of the way. Ray Lewis has not played like the future Hall of Fame LB he is in every game this season. He looked downright human against the Browns. That being said, the season opener on MNF was a vintage performance from one of the greatest defenders in league history, and Lewis locked up the Steelers game with a late interception of Charlie Batch. He tallied 15 tackles in the win over the Bills as well. San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis may be the unquestionable greatest LB in the game today, but Ray Lewis has not fallen terribly far behind.

4. FB Le’Ron McClain-This one may catch a few folks off guard, as the personal foul penalty in Foxborough and the lack of carries probably stick out in the minds of most fans more than anything else, but Le’Ron McClain is playing as well at his position as almost anyone else on the Ravens roster this season. RB Coach Wilbert Montgomery graded McClain’s performance against the Browns as the best by a Ravens player this season, and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron told me that in terms of the total package-blocking, rushing and pass catching-McClain was absolutely the best fullback in not only the AFC-but the entire NFL.

3. QB Joe Flacco-If it weren’t for the dud in Cincy, Flacco may be #1 on the list. Unfortunately, the game in Cincy still counts. Flacco has been outstanding for the better part of the season-despite strange criticism from fans and a handful of analysts alike. He’s on pace for another season with 3,000+ yards and 20+ touchdowns and has limited his turnovers in games BESIDES Cincinnati. Flacco still needs to figure out that Ray Rice is just 5’7″; which has to be the most frustrating part of his game at this point.

2. WR Anquan Boldin-Anquan Boldin has been everything the Ravens had hoped he would be and more. He’s been a reliable target, he’s shown the type of toughness that originally made him a star with the Arizona Cardinals, and at times (the Browns game sticks out) he’s even added an explosive level to his game. He unfortunately doesn’t get to matchup against Eric Wright every week; but he’s on pace for 1,000+ yards and double digit TD’s no matter who he’s up against. Some fans in Baltimore who weren’t familiar with his game thought the Ravens were getting Larry Fitzgerald; but for those who knew what type of player Boldin was-he’s been ABSOLUTELY as good as advertised if not better.

1. DT Haloti Ngata-There is simply no better player on this football team right now than Haloti Ngata. There’s almost no argument any longer about who the best interior D-Lineman is in the NFL either. The only unfortunate part about the season for Ngata has been the fact that the lack of a rush end has forced the Ravens to send Ngata outside and hope he could get to the quarterback. He’s capable, but it’s by no means where he is best used. When he does get in the backfield, there’s no quarterback (or other player at any position) that’s happy to see him.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttqIWOqvGSM[/youtube]

-G

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Steve Hauschka: “I Think That There Is a High Standard Out There That The Kickers Have Set, And Anything Below That Won’t Be Tolerated”

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Steve Hauschka: “I Think That There Is a High Standard Out There That The Kickers Have Set, And Anything Below That Won’t Be Tolerated”

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Steve Hauschka
Everywhere Steve Hauschka has gone so far in this short NFL career, he has had to replace or has been around an NFL kicker who has been kicking clutch field goals for years.

Last year’s starting Ravens kicker for the first two months of the season had trouble replacing a hero here in Baltimore in Matt Stover, as the former NC State kicker struggled, kicking 69& of his attempts, making only 9 out of 13 attempts from last year, including a big miss in the Ravens October 18th loss to the Vikings that cost the game for Baltimore.

Hauschka beat 2008 Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano for the starting job for the Ravens last camp after the Ravens decided not to resign Stover, who wanted a guaranteed contract going into training camp.

Hauschka said it wasn’t easy to fit into someone shoes like Stover.

“It’s not easy at the beginning, especially following up a guy like Matt Stover, whose had a real great career there in Baltimore,” Hauschka told Thyrl Nelson on Thursday.  “It wasn’t easy as a young guy. I did my best and I wish things worked a different way, but I don’t have any regrets.”

Hauschka was released by the Ravens a month after his fourth miss of the year. He later tried on with the Falcons, who signed him to a contract after trying to find a replacement for a struggling Jason Elam, and he competed with Matt Bryant the rest of the season, not seeing any attempts to prove himself or right his confidence.

Hauschka realizes and understands why his time in Baltimore was cut short. He knows he deserved it, given the nature of the position.

“I think that there is a high standard out there that the kickers have set, and anything below that wont be tolerated,” Hauschka explained. “That’s just the nature of the position.”

“It’s a really obvious thing when the kicker misses a kick, as opposed to a tackle missing a block or something like that. When a kicker makes a mistake, everyone in the crowd knows it.”

“It’s real easy to point, and I read the other day that is a ‘blame position’, along with the quarterback. Quarterback and kicker, pretty much the two blame positions where it’s easy to say they messed it up, whereas with other positions, it’s not so easy for the average fan. That puts more pressure on you, which is the nature of the position and I understand that and have accepted that. I think most of us NFL guys have.”

But Hauschka still feels like he has the physical skills to kick in the NFL, and he feels like he is a talented kicker for having only kicked professional field goals for the last seven years.

“I didn’t start till my sophomore year in college. I had played soccer and lacrosse before that. My roommate in my freshman year was a football player, and I went out one day and kicked with him. He told me that I had to come out and try out for the team. He convinced the coach to let me come to training camp, and the rest is history. I came out and won the punting and kicking job, and did that for three years.”

Hauschka said that in today’s age where there are only 32 kicking jobs out there and guys like Stover hanging in the league for so long, it makes it hard for young guys like himself to hold down and grab a kicking job in the NFL.

“A lot of factors come into play,” Hauschka said. “It’s not easy for young guys to break in. There is only a couple open spots, and those open spots are relative to, so they come with a lot of competition. So there is only a couple open spots every year. And if a rookie is put in one of those positions, they really have to show something. It’s tough coming up with that experience that guys in the NFL already have. Even a couple years worth of experience is head and shoulders over a young guy or a rookie.”

And now, he is in Lions camp with the Detroit Lions, as he is being asked to hold down the kicking position until longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson is back and healthy as he is recovering from off-season knee surgery.

“I’ve been here about a week-week and a half now. Things have been going fine. I love the organization a lot, and I like it here in Detroit.”

Much like Stover, Hanson is a legend in Detroit. He is only the Lions’ second kicker since 1980, is the league’s 8th leading scorer, and is the only player in the league to play with his original team before the creation of the salary cap and free agency.

Unfortunately for Hauschka, Hanson has only missed one game in his 18 years in the NFL. But Hauschka knew going in that this was really just another chance to prove to all the other teams in the league that he is a capable kicker.

“He’s still the guy here,” Hauschka said of Hanson. “He’s had a great career. He really is a great kicker. I think everyone expects that he’ll be the guy this year again. I’m just trying to help the team however I can, and I know at the current moment Jason is recovering from a minor injury. That is the need for me right now. But I’m going to try and help out the team any way I can.”

And already he has turned some heads. converting four field goals and getting six touch backs on August 21st against Denver, prompting second year Lions coach Jim Schwartz to say he has that “Ernie Els” kick. He kicked five extra points against Cleveland on Saturday.

“I can probably see what he is talking about,” Hauschka said of his coach’s response. “I don’t know exactly, but I’m just assuming I’m swinging easy and that the ball goes far. Ernie Els definitely has a smooth swing. That’s kind of what I try and do out there. I ‘ve got plenty of leg to get the ball where I need to get it, so if I swing smooth, I’ll be a lot more accurate.”

But Hanson was seen warming up before Saturday’s game against Cleveland, and if need be, could have probably gone out there for the game. Hauschka knows his time in Detroit is probably coming to an end soon, but he wants to keep working on trying to be a full-time NFL kicker instead of a part-time, injury replacement.

“I’m always working on something here or there just like any guy is,” he said.  “I’m just kind of waiting for my next opportunity and putting my best out there every chance I get and taking advantage of those opportunities to show what I can do so that teams want to have me out there.”

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (1-20)

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (1-20)

Posted on 25 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number this week, I decided to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Some jersey numbers provide for good debate (Sam Adams or Jarret Johnson for No. 95?) while other integers provide quite the challenge to simply produce a warm body (Who was your favorite No. 46 to suit up for the Ravens?).

Some choices are obvious, others might anger you, and a few will make you say, “Who?” but let the debate begin.

1 Randall Cunningham (2001)

There was really no other choice here. Some Ravens fans are still hollering for Brian Billick to replace Elvis Grbac with the veteran backup.

2 Anthony Wright (2002-05)

No one will forget Wright tossing four touchdown passes to little-used receiver Marcus Robinson, as the journeyman quarterback engineered the greatest comeback in franchise history against the Seattle Seahawks in 2003.

3 Matt Stover (1996-2008)

Never mind the fact that he’s the only player to sport the number 3 in franchise history. There is actually a Stover tribute video on YouTube.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIxu_XtNNn0&p=C92451BE03B3F6A3&playnext=1&index=28[/youtube]

4 Sam Koch (2006-present)

With apologies to the current Ravens head coach’s brother Jim, who played quarterback for the Ravens in 1998, the current Ravens punter is the clear choice for No. 4.

5 Joe Flacco (2008-present)

The franchise quarterback won three playoff games in his first two seasons in the league. Not a bad start.

6 Steve Hauschka (2008-09)

Yes, I’m well aware of this…
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6w8marhWJ8[/youtube]

The only other option here was J.R. Jenkins, the kickoff specialist in 2002. On second thought, Jenkins really got some distance on those kicks!

7 Kyle Boller (2003-08)

I realize most have already clicked back on their browser window after these last two picks, but the former Cal quarterback is still the franchise leader in total passing yards.
Boller
I’m not sure you were aware, but I once heard he could throw the football through the uprights. From the 50-yard line. On his knees.

8 Trent Dilfer (2000)

Flacco may be the toast of the town in 2010, but he has some work to do before making anyone forget about this guy.
Dilfer

9 Steve McNair (2006-07)

Many remember his poor playoff performance against Indianapolis in January 2007 and his miserable final season in Baltimore, but his arrival in 2006 helped orchestrate the best regular season record (13-3) in franchise history.

10 Eric Zeier (1996-98)

A punting performance by Kordell Stewart in 2004 and the brief hero-worship of Stoney Case in 1999 earn bizarre mentions here, but Zeier had six 100-plus quarterback rating performances and three 250-yard games in his three-year career in Baltimore. Height (listed at 6-foot-1) prevented the Georgia quarterback from getting a legitimate chance as the starter.

11 Jeff Blake (2002)

The former Bengal is the clear-cut choice here, but no one will forget him chuckling with Steelers coach Bill Cowher moments after tossing an interception in the end zone in the final seconds of a loss at Pittsburgh in 2002.

12 Vinny Testaverde (1996-97)

One of the most maligned quarterbacks in NFL history, Testaverde still owns the finest passing season in franchise history when he threw for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns in 1996.

Tony Banks gets consideration here with his five touchdown passes in the Ravens’ thrilling 39-36 comeback victory over Jacksonville in Week 2 of the 2000 season, a pivotal moment in the history of the franchise. Things fell apart quickly for Banks before eventually being replaced by Dilfer several weeks later.

13 Eron Riley* (2009-present)

Research indicated no player has worn No. 13 in the regular season for the Ravens. Riley wears the number on the preseason roster and was a member of the practice squad a year ago.

14 Wally Richardson (1997-98)

The pride of Happy Valley, Richardson was the third-string quarterback for two seasons and threw for one yard on two career attempts in the NFL.

15 Dave Zastudil (2002-05)

The front office took heat for drafting “The Weapon” in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, but Zastudil was a quality punter for four seasons before signing with the Browns.

16 Yamon Figurs (2007-08)

Tremendous speed that produced two touchdown returns his rookie season, but Figurs could never put it to use as a receiver.

17 David Tyree (2009)

Shayne Graham immediately takes this distinction if he makes the 53-man roster next month, but receiver Matt Willis (2007) was the only other option for this number. Besides, you may remember Tyree for something else a couple of years before his brief stop in Baltimore…
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-aKfTK2LiM[/youtube]

18 Elvis Grbac (2001)

Other than Boller a few years later, no player faced the wrath of Ravens fans quite like Grbac. The former Pro Bowl quarterback came to town with intense pressure to lead a repeat in 2001, but Grbac had no chance when Jamal Lewis was lost for the season after tearing his ACL early in training camp.
Grbac
He went down in flames against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and retired a few months later, but name a quarterback who would have won with Terry Allen and Jason Brookins as his feature backs that season.

19 Johnny Unitas*

Yes, I’m well aware Johnny U never played a down for the Ravens, but did you really think I could put this guy on the list?
Mitchell

20 Ed Reed (2002-present)

A nanosecond-long nod goes to the Super Bowl-winning safety Kim Herring, but Reed is the easiest choice among the numbers previously worn by other players. The ball-hawking safety is unquestionably one of the greatest free safeties in the history of the game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVgUpwxR8Qg&feature=related[/youtube]

Next up: Find out which member of the Ring of Honor didn’t make the cut as I reveal the greatest Ravens for Nos. 21-40.

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Former Raven and Redskins Kicker Graham Gano: “I’m Looking Forward To The Game on Saturday”

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

This preseason, the Ravens are in a kicking battle to decide who will be their starting kicker come Week 1 of the regular season when they face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football September 13th.

It will either be Shayne Graham, a Pro-Bowler in his own right, or Billy Cundiff, a kicker who came into the fold mid-season last winter and stabilized the kicking position.

This is the second straight year the Ravens have had an open competition to decide who will be their kicker, and last year it was the battle between two ex-ACC kickers in Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano, who was the Lou Groza Award Winner in 2008, the award given to the NCAA’s best kicker.

Hauschka won the job out of training camp last August because Gano, who appeared on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider Thursday, seemed to be the lesser of two evils at the end of camp.

Gano admitted to Snider that his head was spinning a little bit just trying to impress the coaching staff here in Baltimore trying to earn a spot on the team.

“Last year when I came into Baltimore, I was learning a lot,” Gano said. “I wasn’t a very developed kicker. I went in learning a lot, and I had a lot to learn.”

He had an impressive resume at Florida State, where during his one year as kicker for the Seminoles, he kicked better than 90% of his field goals(24-26), led the ACC in scoring, and was named a first-team All-American by the AP and Sporting News.

But Gano couldn’t transfer that success to the Ravens in camp, and the Ravens released the rookie.

After the Ravens released Gano, who was invited to camp as a rookie free agent, Gano signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL, which was in its first season.

Gano put his mark on the recently-created UFL, as he not only scored the game-winning field goal in the championship game of the league; he also scored the league’s first points and has the longest field goal (53 yards) in the history of the league.

Those numbers drew the attention of NFL teams yet again to Gano, and the Redskins signed Gano in December of last year after UFL players were allowed to sign with NFL squads.

Now he will suit up against his old team when the Ravens travel to Landover to take on the Redskins in preseason action at 7pm on Saturday.

“After they released me, I had the chance to go to the UFL and really develop my kicking game,” Gano said. “When the Redskins picked me up last year, I was a completely different kicker than I was in Baltimore. Both teams do a great job with their special teams, and I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday.”

Gano really cherished the opportunity he had with the Locomotives because it gave him the chance to have fun with football yet again.

“The UFL really helped me out last year as far as developing and getting my confidence back after being released from the Ravens,” Gano said. “When I did get my opportunity with the Redskins, I know that I wouldn’t have been prepared if I didn’t have the opportunity in Las Vegas.”

Gano hopes that his story can be an example of how effective the UFL can be at being like a developmental league for the NFL.

“The talent in the UFL is very good…it was really good competition. Hopefully it will keep growing and giving more and more guys the opportunity to make the NFL.”

Now, Gano said he is very comfortable and relaxed kicking for the Redskins, and for the first time in his football career, he is just having fun playing football.

“When I started kicking at Florida State, I would get a little nervous going out for a big kick or a long field goal. Now, its just a lot of fun to me. I have a good time. Even when I run out on the field, I’ll be laughing and just having a good time out there.”

Gano said that his mental strength now may be a bigger asset to him now as opposed to his leg strength.

“I think that’s just what keeps me so focused and so calm. I don’t have any worries when I go out there and kick. I know that I’ve practiced so many times in practice, and in my mind at practice. I’ve put myself through so many situations, when the kicks do come in a game like that…I’m already prepared and I think that’s what helps me out.”

And even when the fans are blaring now, Gano is still having fun. In fact, it fuels him even more.

“I could try and practice as much as possible, and try and simulate it, but when you step out on the field and you have all those fans screaming at an away game, its a lot different. But that’s what makes it fun, and thats what I live for. I live for those opportunities.”

Gano actually keeps in touch with his former teammate and “rival” in Hauschka, who is now in a similar situation as Gano after being cut by the Atlanta Falcons a week ago.

Now the roles are switched, as Gano has an NFL kicking job and Hauschka is unemployed. But Gano knows Hauschka will have the same determination he had in trying to get back in the NFL.

And actually, even though Hauschka took a career in Baltimore away from Gano, Gano was probably one of Hasuchka’s biggest fans.

“I still keep in touch with Steve. I was talking with him the other day. Throughout the season, I still kept in touch with him. I was wishing him the best of luck, and I know that it was hard times for him.”

“That’s the thing…it could be one or two kicks that make or break your career, and he was unfortunate to experience that those two games. I still think he’s a great kicker, and hopefully he’ll get picked up somewhere and have a great career. I felt bad for him those two misses.”

Keep an eye out for Gano on Saturday when the Redskins take on the Ravens on Saturday at 7. And while we will be watching him from afar, Gano is just trying to get ready for Week 1 when the Skins take on the Cowboys.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Gano said. “The guys have really been working hard, and the coaches brought in a lot of good players to help our team get better.”

“We had a great first preseason game, but the tests are really going to start when we face Dallas in the first regular season game. I think everybody on the team is focused and ready to go, and we’re just preparing for that game.”

Big Thanks To Graham Gano for joining us on WNST and We Wish Him The Best in Washington…except on Saturday! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff on Camp Battle: “It Gives Me a Chance to Compete…And Prove What I’m Worth”

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Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff on Camp Battle: “It Gives Me a Chance to Compete…And Prove What I’m Worth”

Posted on 02 August 2010 by Ryan Chell

Shayne Graham
When the Ravens reached out to ex-Cincinnati Bengals and 2005 Pro Bowl kicker Shayne Graham in the off-season, it may have meant the end of the line for 2009 kicker Billy Cundiff, who came on in the final two months of last year and really stabilized the kicking game after a slow start by Steve Hauschka last year.

But the Ravens were not ready to give up on Cundiff just yet, and had actually committed to their incumbent kicker before the arrival of Graham going into the 2010 season.

Cundiff was 12-of-17 from field goal range in his 1.5 months of service, and with a small kicking market, Cundiff signed his one-year restricted free agent tender to stay with the team.

Cundiff actually started off his Ravens career very well, kicking a season-high five field goals in the Ravens’ 17-15 loss to the Colts.

He did however miss a field goal in that game that turned out to be the deciding points in the game.

But quarterback Joe Flacco also threw a late interception that sealed the win for Indy.

He did however redeem himself a week later by kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Steelers, 20-17 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Billy Cundiff

At that particular time, the Ravens had seen at least some ounce of consistency with Cundiff, while they could not put any faith in second-year man Steve Hauschka, who was 9-of-13 in his field goal tries.

Ironically, Cundiff  only connected on 70% of his field goal attempts for the Ravens( Hauschka hit 69%), but added with his time earlier in the year with Cleveland as an injury replacement for Phil Dawson(6-for-6), that helped bring his numbers up closer to a respectable 80%.

The Ravens were ready to go into this year with Cundiff as their starting kicker back in the beginning of the off-season.

“He’s proved he can make field goals under pressure situations,” head coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun back in January.

However, in that same off-season, Graham was not re-signed by the division-rival Cincinnati Bengals after being given the franchise tag last year.

The Ravens saw Graham as an upgrade, and the two sides spent months working things out. Finally, the two sides agreed to a one year deal, and with incentives could make Graham one of the higher paid kickers in the league.

That contract would make it look as if it’s Graham’s job to lose, but Cundiff was still invited to training camp this year to see if he could still earn the job.

Cundiff was grateful to the Ravens for giving him a chance. He’s been in situations before where a team didn’t even give him that much of a chance.

“For me personally, 2007 was the last time I was in a training camp. Before that, we’re looking at 2004 was the last year I finished a training camp.”

“It gives me a chance to go from start to finish, get some rhythm, have a chance to compete with Shayne here and  prove what I’m worth,” Cundiff told WNST’s Thyrl Nelson last week as camp started.

Cundiff said it’s up to the coaching staff and GM Ozzie Newsome to evaluate how he and Graham do in camp and the preseason games to see who is better suited for the team.

“It’s one of those things where I can lay it all on the line, and let Ozzie decide to go with me or not.”

And that is how Cundiff is maintaining the competition at this time. He can only focus on how he performs in camp, not how Graham does.

“At least for me, I’ll focus on what I can control, and go out and do my best.”

And that’s the thing with kickers. Most teams can only carry one on their roster, so the decision is simple for the Ravens: either Cundiff or Graham.

And for two kickers in Graham and Cundiff, both over 30 and having kicked in this league for a long time, are not about to give one another the edge in the job by helping the other with advice.

“I don’t think that kickers are giving each other tips. We know this is going to come down to big picture stuff. So I don’t think you’re going to see any guys sitting there helping each other out.”

But at the same time, Graham and Cundiff have been chatting and are handling this hurdle as best they can.

“We’re both professionals and have been around long enough, so we don’t have to try and get in each other’s heads. We’re just there to push each other to make each other better knowing that ultimately who’s here is here.”

Both kickers have kicked well so far in training camp, and that is only the beginning of the evaluation progress between these two.

“It’s going to be day-to-day, kick-to-kick, and then the preseason games obviously. It’s important-as you all know- that you’re able to go kick in game environments,” special teams coach Jerry Rosburg told our own Luke Jones Saturday.

This marks the second straight year that the Ravens have had a kicking competition in training camp. Last year pitted second year man Steve Hauschka, who was the team’s kickoff specialist the year before, and Graham Gano, the Lou Groza Award Winner from Florida State.

Think this team misses the consistency Matt Stover brought to the organization for those dozen-plus years?

Cundiff also realizes that he isn’t just trying out for the Ravens; he might be auditioning for another NFL kicking job if Baltimore doesn’t tab him as the starter.

“And if you play well enough, you’re trying out for 31 other teams as well,” Cundiff noted.

Tune into WNST and WNST.net for more news regarding the Ravens second straight kicking competition!

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The truth about Matt Stover’s departure from Baltimore

Posted on 13 January 2010 by Drew Forrester

In a number of ways, the single worst thing that could happen to the Ravens this weekend in Indianapolis would be for the team to lose by three points and have the Colts field goal kicker boot one home with 0:14 to play to end it.

First, losing to the Colts in any way, shape or form will be tough to digest here in Baltimore.  The ONLY thing that would soften the blow is the fact that the game is in Indy and not Charm City.  Seeing Indy win is one thing…seeing them doing it on the M&T Bank Stadium turf would be just too much to handle.  We’ve been there, done that, of course.

For the record, I think the Ravens are winning on Saturday in Indy.

But this is a “what if?” blog.

What IF the Ravens lose by a field goal on Saturday?  That means Matt Stover would be the hero.  And that would be particularly aggravating considering Stover’s long run in purple and his departure in the recent off-season.  His initial replacement, Steve Hauschka, is long gone — and the Ravens are relying on journeyman kicker Billy Cundiff to get them through the remainder of the playoffs.

And IF Stover happens to factor in a Colts win on Saturday, there will be lots of bellyaching going on from Ravens fans about how “we (Ravens) let Stover get away.”

Ozzie Newsome will get beat up.

John Harbaugh will get beat up.

The organization will be taken to task.

Unfair.

Unfair.

And unfair.

Matt Stover isn’t on the Ravens because of a contract dispute.

The Ravens didn’t “let him go”.  The Ravens wanted him to be their kicker.  Period.

Stover, though, became “unsignable” when he demanded a guaranteed contract from the Ravens during the negotiating process last summer.

The money was somewhat troubling to the Ravens, sure.  They really didn’t want to spend $1.5 million on a field goal kicker and another $400k or so on a “specialty kicker” like Hauschka who would have handled kick-offs and long-range field goals.

But money isn’t what kept Stover from staying in Baltimore.

Stover kept himself from staying by demanding a guaranteed deal from the Ravens.

But it wasn’t just any kind of guaranteed deal.  Stover wanted it guaranteed that he’d be paid in full if the team parted company with him in training camp.  He was smart enough to know that a kicking competition was probably on the horizon.  He was also wise to the fact that if, in fact, he did get cut in late August, it might not be easy to catch on with another team at the latter stages of training camp.

Hence, the demand for a guaranteed deal in training camp.

The only problem?

The Ravens don’t do that.

For anyone.

They don’t do it for Ray Lewis.  They didn’t do it for Jamal Lewis, or Chris McAlister or Peter Boulware, either.

They’ve never guaranteed a player’s deal in training camp.

And they weren’t going to break that rule for Matt Stover.

Stover, of course, stuck to his guns.  And so did the Ravens.  Stover waited out the early part of the season and then hooked on with the Colts when Adam Vinatieri went down with an injury.  The Ravens, meanwhile, felt the bite of Matt’s departure when Hauschka got off to a slow start and then missed a game-winning field goal attempt in Minnesota in week #5.

I’m not really judging Matt Stover for his desire to have a guaranteed deal.  I understand it all quite well.  He was in a good bargaining position and probably felt like he deserved that nod of respect from the Ravens after all the great work he put in for the club.

But the Ravens can’t run their organization effectively if they’re willing to bend a forever-in-stone-in-house-rule for ANY PLAYER, Stover or otherwise.

And, of course, it must be noted that Stover could have tried his power-play until the 11th hour…and then caved in at the end and said, “OK, OK, I’ll come to camp with a contract like the rest of the guys on the team and if I make the team, then it’s guaranteed.  I’ll see you in camp next week.”

He COULD have done that.  After all, that’s what Ray Lewis does every summer.  He reports to training camp like the lowest guy on the totem pole and his contract isn’t “guaranteed” in August.

Teams put themselves in a bad position when they start handing out back-door deals to players, regardless of status, length of service or production.  Players NEVER keep a secret…they just don’t.  Agents NEVER keep a secret either.  Make a deal with the devil and everyone in hell knows about it before the next shipment of firewood comes in.

So, yes, the money was an issue, but it was a negotiable issue, as far as the Ravens were concerned.  What wasn’t negotiable was the issue of Stover’s contract being guaranteed in training camp.

So Matt Stover moved on.

That’s the deal…the REAL story behind Matt Stover’s departure from the Ravens.

It wasn’t John Harbaugh “giving up” on Matt Stover and it certainly wasn’t Ozzie Newsome deciding to go with Hauschka over Stover.

It was this: Two people – in this case, player and club – sticking to their principles and doing what was best for themselves.

No hard feelings.

But just remember how it all shook down IF, by chance, Stover happens to be the hero on Saturday in Indianapolis.

The Ravens didn’t let him go.

Matt Stover made a stand and the Ravens didn’t buckle.

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