OWINGS MILLS — Steve Hauschka won the Baltimore Ravens’ kicking job over Graham Gano because of his range, accuracy and fundamentals as he takes over for veteran Matt Stover.
In Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s estimation Hauschka has the best mechanics of any young kicker he has watched in a long time. And he accompanied that compliment by referencing Philadelphia Eagles kicker David Akers and Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson.
Hauschka converted 5 of 6 field goals during the preseason, including a 46-yarder against the Atlanta Falcons to wrap up the preseason.
"Obviously we’re confident in him or he wouldn’t be our kicker," Harbaugh said. "Let’s understand this: he’s going to miss some kicks. Now if he goes 100 percent and makes them all, we’ll all look like geniuses, but that’s not going to happen.
"He’s going to miss a couple of kicks. The thing we’re looking for is how he handles missing a kick just like how does Joe [Flacco] handle throwing a bad pass or Ray [Lewis] missing a tackle. We have to give him that kind of leeway. He’s really talented."
HOMETOWN HERO: For Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, playing in Baltimore carries a special meaning.
He grew up in Randallstown, starring at Western Tech and the University of Maryland. Now, he’s preparing for his first regular-season game for the team he grew up rooting for.
"It’s tough to put into words because this team is in my blood. It’s genuine," Foxworth said. "I’m playing for this city. It’s my city. It’s the city I grew up in. It’s been a dream come true."
Of course, Foxworth has been besieged by hundreds of ticket requests and he has purchased 10 for the game Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium.
"I found several ways to tell people no and try to be nice, but I’m not going to be stressing myself out on Wednesday or Thursday to see who is coming or going," Foxworth said. "I have my tickets for the entire season. Anyone who calls me from here on out, I’m telling them that the Ravens are sold out and I can’t do anything about that."
Plus, several of Foxworth’s high school teammates have lobbied him to pass on video of them in action to the Ravens’ coaching staff.
That amused and offended Foxworth, who signed a four-year, $27.2 million contract this offseason that included $16.5 million in guaranteed money.
"People just assume that they can do the job, so I have a bunch of ex-teammates who I played with in high school and friends of my brother, who call me and say, ‘Can you give my tape to Coach Harbaugh?’" Foxworth said. "It annoys me, because they have little respect for what we do, and we work really hard.
"You don’t just walk up to a computer programmer and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been working on calculators my whole life, I could probably figure that out.’ People, for some reason think that they can just walk out here and do what we do. It’s funny though.”
MASON NOT COMMITTING TO 2010 SEASON: Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason retired for a few weeks this offseason before reporting to training camp, and he suggested Monday that this might be his last season.
"I think I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been considering this is possibly my last year," Mason said. "For me to win a Super Bowl is a must. I think the team feels the same."
Mason expressed confidence in his left shoulder after undergoing surgery to repair his labrum and scapula after last season.
"I haven’t taken any steps backward on the shoulder," Mason said. "Right now, the shoulder is fine. I’m expecting it to be fine until February."
YANDA UPDATE: Harbaugh declined to say whether Marshal Yanda, who has recovered well from tearing three knee ligaments last season, will start at right guard against Kansas City.
If Yanda is unable to play, then the Ravens would start former second-round pick Chris Chester.
"It’s going to be whether he can hold up for a whole game or be active in that situation," Harbaugh said. "We’re not sure, in all honesty. And if we were, we wouldn’t tell you."
ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens signed tight end Isaac Smolko to the practice squad, filling out their allotment of eight players.
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh defended cornerback Frank Walker, who had a shaky preseason as he was repeatedly targeted. Walker is prone to penalties and getting beat on deep balls, but is a stalwart on special teams and is the Ravens’ most physical cornerback.
"Frank, contrary to what some people might think, is a heck of a football player," Harbaugh said. "Frank competes. He’s a solid cover corner. He’s a good tackler. Frank can run a little bit. Like anybody else, he has his ups and downs. I think he’s working out some of his weaknesses, both physically and emotionally, but we have a lot of confidence in Frank and we’re proud he’s a Raven."
The Ravens acknowledged speaking with retired former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Anderson, but don’t believe he’s physically able to play at this point. "Willie’s whole thing is physical," Harbaugh said. "He has a tremendous desire to play. We still talk to Willie all the time. He’s not physically in a situation where he feels right to play, but we’ll leave the door open to anybody that makes our team better." … The Ravens were going to keep safety-cornerback Derrick Martin on the roster if they hadn’t been able to trade him to the Green Bay Packers for reserve offensive tackle-guard Tony Moll. "Tony Moll makes us better," Harbaugh said. "Derrick Martin played so well that he’s going to be their third safety," Harbaugh said. "That was kind of a win-win trade for both teams. Derrick wanted to stay and be a Raven. By the same token, his role is going to be so expanded there that we’re excited it was able to work out the way it did." … Harbaugh indicated that the Ravens still might tinker with the roster. "The dust has not settled," Harbaugh said. "We think we kept the 53 best guys at this time that we could with an eye toward the future also."
Two rookie draft picks were claimed off waivers: fifth-round tight end Davon Drew (Miami Dolphins) sixth-round running back Cedric Peerman (Cleveland Browns) as well as former third-round receiver/returner Yamon Figurs (Detroit Lions) "We were disappointed to lose some guys." Harbaugh said. "We understand that they’re good players and we lost them." … The Ravens retained rookie inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe even though he’s not recovered from a sprained medial collateral ligament and was unable to play against the Falcons. "That put him in jeopardy a little bit, and I know he was really disappointed that he couldn’t play," Harbaugh said. "We just decided to hold onto him a little bit longer and see how it goes. All those young guys understand that nothing’s written in stone in this league. You don’t sign a four-year scholarship in the NFL. You’ve got to prove yourself every single day. He understands that. I know he’s really determined to do that.” … The Ravens didn’t keep wide receiver Justin Harper for one primary reason: way too many dropped passes. "Cam [Cameron] has said it: Justin’s going to be a great player in this league, and he shows flashes of it every single day," Harbaugh said. "He’s just not catching the ball consistently enough to make our team yet. He’s in a developmental-type situation right now.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.