Cundiff confident despite crucial AFC title game miss

Street Talk Cundiff confident despite crucial AFC title game miss

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OWINGS MILLS — Surrounded by a phalanx of cameras with bright lights shining in his face, Billy Cundiff didn’t blink.

Undaunted by a horrific errant field goal in an AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots that cost the Baltimore Ravens a potential trip to the Super Bowl, Cundiff was emphatic in delivering a message.

The former Pro Bowl kicker insists that his confidence hasn’t been shaken by flubbing a 32-yarder in the final minute of a bitter 23-20 defeat at Gillette Stadium that would have sent the game into overtime.

"It’s as high as it’s ever been," Cundiff said Wednesday following an organized team activity practice at the Ravens’ training complex. "I think the situation is pretty unique. I’ll learn what I can from it and keep my confidence high.

"It’s not something where I’m trying to avoid it. I know what happened. I don’t need to be reminded of it. I think it’s a learning experience."

With 11 seconds remaining, Cundiff hooked what’s normally a routine field goal for him.

It broke a string of 11 consecutive field goals, and it marked his lone miss in the fourth quarter all season.

Rather than be haunted by his miscue, Cundiff is moving on and working on his craft following a rough season where he slumped to 28 of 37 accuracy for a 75.7 percent clip after signing a five-year, $14.7 million contract a year ago.

And the defending AFC North champions haven’t signed a kicker to compete with Cundiff.

They brought in University of Texas rookie kicker Justin Tucker for a rookie minicamp tryout, but didn’t sign him to a contract or invite him to this week’s organized team activity. However, Tucker indicated that he’s going to attend next week’s organized team activity.

Veteran kickers have been reluctant to sign with Baltimore because it’s thought that Cundiff’s roster status is so strong.

"If anything, it shows I’ve got the confidence to keep going," Cundiff said. "I’m standing here. The team doesn’t have anybody else here. The team believes in me.

"The coach has been really positive with me throughout the whole offseason. Management has been great. Now, it’s just a matter of continuing to get better."

All of Cundiff’s misses came on the road one year after making the Pro Bowl when he hit 26 of 29 field goals and established a franchise record with 44 touchbacks.

Cundiff hasn’t sought out former NFL kickers who’ve been in his situation like Gary Anderson or Scott Norwood.

"I wasn’t looking for consoling, I wasn’t looking for counseling," Cundiff said. "For me, it was one of those things where you meet it head on and move on."

Cundiff did take the step of talking with a sports psychologist, but that’s been part of his mental preparation for the past five years as he battled his way into a regular job with Baltimore.

"He’s not there as a shrink," Cundiff said. "He’s not there to analyze my emotions. We’re there to create a game plan. He was one of the guys who was a big influence on me when I was out of football. We were constantly going on what I could improve on.

"When I got back into football, I was more mentally strong and that carried into the last couple of seasons. What happened in New England is what happened in New England. You move on and it doesn’t change any of my preparation."

For his career, Cundiff has connected on 132 of 172 kicks for a 76.6 percent success rate.

Despite the big miss in New England, Cundiff’s teammates still profess confidence in his ability to deliver in the clutch.

"Billy’s been an amazing kicker," special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "He was a Pro Bowl kicker. Just because he missed one field goal doesn’t mean we value him any less than we did before. He’s the guy everyone trusts that he’s going to get the job done.

"We don’t have a doubt in our mind. Billy wants to be under that kind of pressure. He wants to prove himself. He’s going to do it 99 percent of the time. He got the one miss out of the way and now you’re going to see a whole bunch more game-winners."

Instead of being shunned by teammates or harassed when he’s around town, Cundiff has had an altogether different experience.

At a supermarket Tuesday night, Cundiff said a cashier recognized him and said the Ravens’ coaches should have called timeout prior to his missed field goal against the Patriots.

"It’s actually been really positive, to be perfectly honest with you," Cundiff said. "What’s in the past is in the past. If you don’t win the Super Bowl in this league, what you do really doesn’t matter for the most part.

"You can take your stats and compare it against other people. If you’re not helping your team win the big one, everybody is back to the drawing board the next year."

 

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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