OWINGS MILLS — Sam Koch decided to skip an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii after he and his family were invited to attend the Pro Bowl as guests of Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff.
His wife had concerns about embarking on such a long flight, and Koch prefers to hold off on such an excursion until he’s actually selected to participate in the NFL’s annual all-star game.
"It’s a motivator for the future," Koch told Ravens24x7.com in a telephone interview Sunday, a few hours before the Super Bowl. "I’m a big believer in earning whatever I get."
For the veteran punter and Westminster resident, the Ravens recently deemed the Pro Bowl alternate as being worthy of a new five-year contract that included $9.5 million in base salaries and roughly a $2 million signing bonus.
Rather than test his luck as a pending free agent, Koch never wanted to leave.
And Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty and Koch’s agent, Steve Mudder, made it happen last week following a final late-night negotiating session with Mudder waking up the Koch family with a midnight telephone call from Indonesia, where he was on business.
Koch made $1.759 million as a restricted free agent last season. He’s due the following base salaries over the next five years: $1.3 million (2011), $1.6 million (2012), $1.9 million (2013), $2.2 million (2014) and $2.5 million (2015).
"Absolutely, the long-term security is the most important thing," Koch said. "To know I’m going to be here for the next five years is definitely something I wanted. I couldn’t have asked for more. There’s no other team I would have wanted to go to. This is definitely turning out to be a good thing."
The Koch camp negotiated with the Ravens following the 2008 season, but were never able to get on the same page as far as determining his market value.
This deal exceeds recent punter contracts for the Dallas Cowboys’ Mat McBrian (five years, $8.5 million) and the Detroit Lions’ Nick Harris (six years, $9.15 million) while falling shy of the landmark contract for Oakland Raiders All-Pro punter Shane Lechler (four years, $16 million, including $9 million guaranteed.)
"The Ravens were very fair to me," Koch said. "We ended up agreeing on almost everything, and I thought it was a very fair deal. It’s nice to have the financial security. It’s also nice to know that I have the security regardless of the money as far as staying with the Ravens."
For Koch, remaining in the same locker room and in the same community were both major considerations.
A native of Seward, Neb., who played for the Cornhuskers before being drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore, Koch is accustomed to a low-key life without the hustle and bustle of the big city.
"Absolutely, we like it out there," Koch said. "There are a lot of great people that we’ve met in our neighborhood. Being out here reminds me of living in Nebraska. Everything is closer in proximity. We love the schools. The place we’ve created out here in Westminster, we don’t want to give that up.
"We could go some other place, but what’s a good school district? What about your neighbors? It took us a while to pick where we’re living now. We’ve created something of a foundation for ourselves with friends and neighbors and living with people in a good area. You can’t put a price on that."
Koch averaged 43.6 yards per punt last season, placing a career-high 39 punts inside the 20-yard line to rank second in the NFL in that category.
And he became the Ravens’ all-time leading punter in attempts (402), yards (17,587) and punts inside the 20 (149) last season.
"We believe that we have the best punter and holder in the NFL, and we wanted to make sure he stayed a Raven," coach John Harbaugh said last week. "Sam is a hard worker, a solid person and a great family man. He represents the Ravens and the city of Baltimore very well. I am proud and happy that he will be a big part of where we are taking our team."
The Ravens have kept together their kicking operation, signing Cundiff to a five-year, $14.7 million deal as well as keeping Koch in the fold as his holder.
And long snapper Morgan Cox is expected to hold onto his job after undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Both Cundiff and Koch expressed a desire for the Ravens to ensure that both would be back next season.
"We had such a good tandem, I mean trio as far as Billy, Morgan and myself," Koch said. "It’s one of those things where coming back next year we have a lot more confidence going into the offseason. It’s going to be very comfortable not trying to learn something different or having a different holder and a different snapper. We can jump right in and pick up where we left off."
One area where Koch has excelled beyond how he has boomed the football on occasion is his directional punting.
Last season, opponents averaged only 8.1 yards per punt return against the Ravens last season with four touchbacks.
His longest punt last season was 60 yards.
"Ever since Jerry Rosburg came in as our coach, we’ve wanted to be a directional team," Koch said. "As a player, that’s kind of what I’ve been striving for. Growing up, I wanted to be like a Jeff Feagles with the way he could coffin corner and angle the ball and get it on the sidelines. I loved that part of the game. That’s what I’m going to continue to do this offseason is polish the skills.
"I’d like to improve on everything. I want to get better on touch, on those rugby style kicks. More hang time, I’d always like to improve that. We want to get our coverage team down there and give up the least amount of return yards possible. I’ve got a foundation for myself where I feel very comfortable with where I’m at."
Because of the unresolved labor situation and the possibility of a work stoppage via a lockout, NFL players wouldn’t be able to have organized workouts or practices at team headquarters.
Koch, Cox and Cundiff have already made preliminary plans to get together just in case that transpires.
"Morgan came over to our house and we have talked about some of that stuff," Koch said. "It’s always good to get together. We want to stay at the top of our skill level. It’s definitely something we’ve talked about, but not too much in detail. You definitely have to plan ahead just in case something happens. Hopefully, everything gets worked out."