Billy Cundiff continues to get a lot of hate from fans on talk radio and message boards, and we’ll see what kind of reception he gets at M&T Bank Stadium tonight when the Ravens play the Jacksonville Jaguars in their third preseason game. (He got a mixture of boos and cheers last week when the Ravens played the Detroit Lionsat the Bank.)
None of the negative reaction is unexpected. The Ravens’ kicker has steeled himself for it. When you miss a game-tying 32-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the AFC Championship game, you don’t expect hosannas from the fans the following season.
All you can do is deal with it, try to make every kick you can and assure your team you can still be counted on in crunch-time. That’s what Cundiff, in his own quiet way, is attempting to do. If he’s successful, he’ll eventually turn the fans’ boos to cheers.
Even though the Ravens brought rookie Justin Tucker to training camp to provide competition for Cundiff, the veteran kicker admitted last week he’s been told the job is his to lose by coach John Harbaugh.
This has outraged the anti-Cundiff crowd, which feels Cundiff will never get over that sickening missed kick in the Ravens 23-20 loss to New England last January.
But I’m with the Ravens on this one. Tucker has kicked a little better than Cundiff in practice and neither has missed in a game. But if I’m Harbaugh, I wouldn’t want to start the season with an untested rookie kicker.
Not unless he’s an absolute monster phenom like the Oakland Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski. And not when your team is making another all-out push to get to the Super Bowl.
Tucker has a big leg and is remarkably poised. He’s going to kick somewhere in the NFL at some point. But he’s still a rookie.
All things being equal – and that’s essentially where the Cundiff-Tucker duel is now -- I’ll take the veteran over the rookie every time.