By Matt Vensel, The Baltimore Sun
8:03 PM EST, December 21, 2011
Shayne Graham has been a place-kicking vagabond since Billy Cundiff outbooted him for a job in Ravens training camp two summers ago. After stints with five other teams since, Graham has made sure to never leave his Virginia home without packing his cleats.
"When you get a call, you've got a backpack in the back of your car and you go," he said.
The Ravens came calling Wednesday. With Cundiff ailing from a left calf injury, they signed Graham, an 11-year NFL veteran who earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2005.
To make room for Graham on the 53-man roster — and to keep Cundiff in the fold — the Ravens placed rookie linebacker Chavis Williams on injured reserve with a foot injury.
"We know him, and he knows us," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "He's been kicking for a number of different teams. Unfortunately, Shayne hasn't stuck, which is a real plus for us, knowing that we're bringing in a guy who is not only a quality NFL kicker who's been in an NFL environment, [but also] understands playoff-caliber football."
Graham, 34, is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, having made 85.8 percent of his 247 career field-goal tries. But he hasn't been able to latch on as a regular kicker for a team since he and the Cincinnati Bengals parted ways after the 2009 season.
He was an injury replacement for the New York Giants and New England Patriots after the Ravens cut him in 2010. This summer, Graham was unable to earn a roster spot in tryouts for the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. When Dan Carpenter of the Miami Dolphins missed two games last month, Graham made four of five field-goal attempts as a fill-in.
"My whole career, I started out playing on teams where I came in on short notice," he said. "It's something I've done before. There's a great scene in the movie 'Hoosiers' where the coach takes the team out on the court and measures the rim and says it's the exact same dimension here as it is everywhere else. That's the one constant I have is the goal post and the field. Everything is going to be the same; it's a matter of me executing my job."
In 11 regular-season games with three teams the past two seasons, Graham made 16 of 17 field-goal attempts — the longest was 41 yards — and hit 45 of 47 extra-point tries.
Graham was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts for the Patriots in last season's playoffs. But in his final game with the Bengals, he missed two field-goal tries in a playoff loss to the New York Jets.
With the Ravens clinging to a lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, he said he is ready to take on high-pressure situations in a playoff run if Cundiff is sidelined.
"When you know you're in a position to help guys win, it's a good situation," said Graham, who had received a tryout with the Ravens two weeks ago, when the team was unsure whether Cundiff would be able to kick against the Indianapolis Colts.
The team hasn't decided which player will handle the kicking duties Saturday against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. Rosburg said a decision will be made Saturday. Ultimately, though, with Graham back in Baltimore, it seems unlikely Cundiff will play.
"I really don't know what the expectations are," Graham said. "I hope he gets healthy as soon as he can. All I can control is what I'm asked to do. If I'm asked to go out and play, then I go out and play, and play my best to help these guys win. If it's for one week, it's for one week. If it's for two, it's two. … All I can do is line up and kick when they ask me to."
Cundiff, a Pro Bowl player in 2010, injured his calf in a practice two weeks ago. He has missed three of five field-goal tries in December, including one in Sunday night's 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers. But punter Sam Koch said Cundiff's confidence hasn't waned.
"You can see he's frustrated because he wants to be out there helping out the team as much as he can. It's one of those things where it is better for him to get healthy rather than hurt himself," Koch said. "[Confidence] is not an issue for him at all. When he's healthy, he feels like he can miss nothing. Hopefully, he can get that feeling back."
Cundiff didn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday. He made a brief appearance in the locker room during media availability Wednesday but politely declined an interview request. He changed from shorts into a pair of blue jeans before walking slowly to the trainer's room.
Minutes earlier, Graham had remarked that it felt almost like he had never left the Ravens. "A lot of the guys are familiar with me" from last summer, he said. It looked that way after practice.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs heckled him after the kicker was swarmed by media at his new locker. Graham later joined Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski at Suggs' stall as the defensive backs watched a scene from the movie "Team America: World Police." And Koch is already trying to convince him to join the team's Fu Manchu mustache club.
"With all the red hair, I don't know if it would look too good, but you never know," Koch said. "He said he usually wears a beard, but he's clean-shaven now, so we'll see."
Graham said it is unfortunate that his latest opportunity to kick in the NFL comes as a result of Cundiff's injury. But he hopes to one day be a full-time member of a team — whether it is in Baltimore or elsewhere — and not a guy who carries cleats in the trunk of his car, just in case.
"How many people would love to have this job for one game? I'm not going to complain one bit about having a week-to-week deal right now," Graham said. "Of course, I would love to be long term, but it is what it is. I take the opportunities when they come."
Shayne Graham by the numbers
6 Teams Graham has been with since being cut by the Ravens in the 2010 preseason
1 Pro Bowl Graham has made in his career (2005)
1 Field-goal attempt Graham has missed in the past two seasons, in 17 tries
85.8 Percent of field-goal attempts Graham has made in his NFL career
41 Distance, in yards, of Graham's longest field goal in the past two seasons
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