Rookie kicker keeps competition interesting

Justin Tucker, a rookie kicker from Texas, has pressed incumbent Billy Cundiff by splitting upright after upright during Ravens training camp, whether it was a chip shot field goal at the team’s facility in Owings Mills or a 63-yarder in front of 20,324 screaming fans at M&T; Bank Stadium.

Though the competition to determine who will be Baltimore’s kicker in Week 1 is far from over, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said after Tuesday’s practice that, hypothetically, he would feel comfortable relying on the rookie kicker for the season opener on September 10.

“He’ll be in there Friday night, he’ll be right out there in front of everybody and kicking, and I won’t have any apprehension,” he said. “The best player plays and that’s just the way it is.”

Rosburg, who liked Tucker in college, raved about his talent and also his coachability, saying that the undrafted rookie free agent has been receptive to technical tweaks that the coaching staff has made. And Rosburg implied that he had expected Tucker to put pressure on Cundiff.

“I don’t know how you hide at the University of Texas, but he wasn’t a surprise to us,” he said.

Tucker, whose leg was given a break Tuesday, has missed just five of his 87 field-goal tries during training camp. Meanwhile, Cundiff, who on Tuesday went 6-for-7, has connected on 74 of his 89 attempts. But Cundiff raised eyebrows Monday when he missed kicks from 24 and 34 yards.

Rosburg said the goal for Friday night at M&T; Bank Stadium, the team’s second preseason game, is for Cundiff and Tucker to get the same amount of field goal attempts. Cundiff will start the game, but how the night plays out will dictate when Tucker takes over the kicking duties.

“We’ve had a really good competition,” Rosburg said. “Both have had good camps. Both have their misses. But at the same time, they [bounce] back. Billy had a good day [Tuesday]. He kicked the ball really well. I’m interested to see what happens this Friday.”

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