Fortunately for the Ravens, the most talked about positional battle during training camp won’t be that of quarterback – it’ll be for a kicker.
With training camp now underway for rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans (full-team practice tomorrow), undrafted free-agent kicker Justin Tucker will catch the eyes of many and will easily become the most talked about man in Baltimore from now until final 53-man roster cuts are made the first week of September.
Tucker was watching the Ravens during the AFC Championship game and saw the misfortune that ensued at the hands – or foot – of Billy Cundiff. Little did he know at the time, but Cundiff’s struggles could lead to a potential job for Tucker as the Ravens signed him after a tryout during the rookie mini-camp.
As mini-camp concluded, I asked Tucker what Cundiff had to have been feeling after missing such a huge kick in his career.
“It’s just a duality of the position,” Tucker said. “You have to be able to take it in stride and for as many successes as one may have, there is going to be that bump in the road and it’s something you have to be able to get over.”
Now that the kicking competition has officially started, every bump in the road navigated by Tucker or Cundiff will be closely noted by the media, the 200 fans lucky enough to witness training camp each day and most importantly – the coaches.
As Tucker beings his uphill battle to un-employ a player the Ravens will pay $2.2 million this season, he’ll have to stick to a few of his best attributes.
“One of my strengths as a kicker is being mentally strong and focused,” said Tucker.
“Part of that is coming in being able to adapt to anything or be able to expect the unexpected.”
Tucker should expect to hear his name discussed more than ever before as some Ravens’ fans look to exorcise the demons ushered in by Lee Evans’ drop and Cundiff’s shank in New England during the AFC Championship Game.
One is already gone.
Will Cundiff be the next?
Fortunately for Tucker, even if he doesn’t do enough to beat out Cundiff for the job in Baltimore, if the OTA’s are any indication, he’ll have a good shot to be on an NFL roster come Week 1.