Justin Tucker: "There is no animosity" with Billy Cundiff
Justin Tucker’s leg strength and accuracy are provingsufficient to gain notice in Baltimore. Add in the fact that his success could evictthe only remaining scapegoat from last year’s AFC Championship game meltdown fromthe roster, and the young kicker has quickly become a fan favorite.
The former Texas Longhorn is the talk of Baltimore andrightfully so. Though he attempted two fewer field goals than hiscompetition, Billy Cundiff, Tucker nonetheless connected successfully on 13more field goals during training camp. According tostats kept by Ed Lee of the Baltimore Sun,Tucker connected on 82 of 87 kicks (94.2%) through last Wednesday, whereas Cundiff only made74 of 89 (83.1%)
As if Cundiff’s botched 32-yarder last January didn’talready create an awkward work environment coming into this season, he has toface a rookie who has a legitimate shot at putting the former Pro Bowl kickerout of a job.
One can only imagine what it would be like to spend themajority of your day with someone who is trying to replace you.
“It’s not awkward at all, it’s just known,” Tucker said. “Icame in knowing that I was going to be in a head-to-head competition; [Cundiff]knew I was coming in for just the sole purpose of competition and there is noanimosity or nothing like that.”
Tucker is absorbing every bit of his opportunity to play inthe NFL both on the field and in the locker room with his teammates.
“First thing that comes to mind is how much fun this is. Notmany people are blessed with the opportunity that we all have and it’s just amatter of being able to recognize it,” he said. “If I’m not taking advantage ofthis opportunity to the fullest, than I’m letting somebody down and Idefinitely don’t want to do that.”
During his downtime, Tucker and a few of his teammates havebeen getting to explore Baltimore and even though he’s just arrived, he’s beengetting plenty of support from the Ravens fan base.
“People have just been nice up here, which is cool. I’m notexpecting anything but it’s nice when people say ‘what’s up?”
The 53-man roster cut down will be made on August 31stand if Tucker continues to kick the way he has, it’s hard to imagine the teamreleasing him. Tucker is more accurate, consistent and not to mention $2.2million less expensive than Cundiff.
“The real winner is going to be the Ravens in the end –they’re going to get the best guy possible, whomever that may be,” said Tucker.
The boos that echoed off the seats at M&T Bank Stadiumlast night when Cundiff took the field clearly show who the fans want as theirkicker for this season. Whether in Baltimore or elsewhere, Tucker has shownenough to earn himself a chance to kick in the NFL in 2012.
Throughout camp, most of the rookie’s misses have been from beyond50 yards, whereas Cundiff has struggled inside of 45. At one point last week, theincumbent even missed from 24 yards out.
One thing is for sure - if this really was an opencompetition, then based on what they’ve shown this summer, Tucker is the betterman for the job.
When the final roster is released on August 31, my money ison Tucker being listed at the placekicker position.
Compare Tucker's outlook to that of Billy Cundiff