Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg experienced something this week that he said has never happened before.
It wasn't watching his return team carve up the opponent for a 100-plus yard kick return touchdown. Heck, Jacoby Jones and company had done that just four weeks earlier. It wasn't even watching holder Sam Koch take a direct snap and run right up the middle into the end zone. Koch had done that last season on a two-point conversion against the Steelers.
But this week, for the first time, Rosburg was presented with a game ball by de facto special teams captain Brendon Ayanbadejo after the Ravens scored two special teams touchdowns in their 55-20 win over the Raiders.
“It meant a lot to me to really represent our special teams core players and our coaches – (assistant special teams coach) Chris Hewitt and (kicking consultant) Randy Brown and all the guys that we work with on a daily basis," said Rosburg, in his fifth season with the Ravens. "It’s really a compliment to all those guys."
The Ravens took a lot of heat for their special teams play last year -- ranking near the bottom of the league in kick coverage and surrendering a record-tying three special teams return touchdowns. This season, though, things are much improved after an off-season that stressed precisely that.
Ayanbadejo was re-signed as a free agent, and Corey Graham, Sean Considine and James Ihedigbo all signed with the Ravens and have been a boost on special teams. The Ravens rank 12th in kick coverage this season and have cut the opposition's returns by about 6 yards a kick. Kicker Justin Tucker has been superb as a rookie, and Sam Koch has been his reliable self as the Ravens' punter.
No special teams acquisition has made a larger impact than Jones, whose two kickoff return touchdowns -- of 105 and a franchise-record 108 yards -- already establish a Ravens career record. Of course, no matter how fast Jones is, he needs help from special teamers such as Anthony Allen, who has been instrumental as a lead blocker for Jones.
The special teamers often grind it out in relative anonymity, so Rosburg said he was thrilled to accept the game ball on their behalf.
"We’re the first ones in meetings, the first ones out on the practice fields," he said. "And the guys were working really hard, and you see the progress that’s being made on a daily basis. It makes your heart soar when you see the rewards come to those players, and that’s what I felt best about.”