Cundiff develops comfort level with another season in Baltimore

The last time Billy Cundiff began the regular season with the same team that he finished the previous season was 2005 with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Ravens’ decision to award kicking duties to Cundiff over Shayne Graham gives Cundiff a chance to make a more permanent home out of Baltimore. It’s also an opportunity for Cundiff to become even more comfortable with the coaches and players with whom he played alongside for the final 14 regular-season and playoff contests last year.

“I definitely think it helps,” he said of that familiarity with the Ravens. “We were joking about it in training camp that this is the first training camp since 2005 I’ve been through with the team that I was with the previous year. So I’ve had five or six years here where I haven’t had the ability to work with the same people over the course of the offseason and get all of those reps. But when I came in from the whole offseason programs and went into training camp and the preseason games, there was a comfort level there that I haven’t experienced in a really long time.”

Cundiff converted 15-of-20 field goals last season, but he was still considered a slight underdog to Graham, the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history. While that may have intimidated others, Cundiff, who has been kicking in the league since the Cowboys signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2002, said he didn’t give much thought to Graham being the favorite.

“I had a chance to compete against a guy who had been a franchised kicker the year before, a guy that’s played in a Pro Bowl,” Cundiff said. “So if you need any more motivation than that, I’m not sure you have a pulse. So I had a lot of motivation. I didn’t necessarily think of myself as the underdog, but I definitely thought that I had something to prove.”

Cundiff said the Ravens’ decision validates his commitment to staying in Owings Mills for the team’s offseason workouts – even if that entailed spending little time with his wife Nicole, his daughter Chloe and his son Luke.

“The ultimate goal is never to be a fill-in,” Cundiff said. “So for me, all of this hard work since essentially 2005 when I got injured, all of that was worth it. So when they said I earned it, I think of it as confirmation for all of that hard work.”

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