Harbaugh drops $200K on trophy replicas
A year ago at this time, Justin Tucker was a no-name rookie who was invited to Ravens training camp ostensibly to give Billy Cundiff a token challenge. Cundiff was the incumbent and figured to be the Ravens kicker, but as coach John Harbaugh likes to say, there is competition for every position, and competition makes everyone better.
A year later, Tucker has established himself as one of the top young kicking talents in the league, and even has his very own bobblehead -- or more accurately, bobble-leg -- doll to prove it.
"It is crazy the difference a year makes," Tucker told WNST Radio earlier this week, shortly before the Bowie Baysox gave out 750 Justin Tucker "bobble-leg" dolls as part of Ravens Pride Night on July 11.
Tucker opened eyes immediately in camp last summer, as the Texas product consistently made kicks from 45, 50, 55 yards. He even hit a kick or two from beyond 60.
Shortly before the season began, the Ravens made what proved to be one of their best decisions of the season, keeping the rookie over the veteran Cundiff.
It was viewed as risky at the time -- would the Ravens really trust a rookie kicker in the crucible of the NFL playoffs? -- but time and again Tucker validated it.
Tucker made 30 of 33 field-goal attempts in the regular season and was 4-for-4 in the playoffs. He showed the ability to make kicks from long-range and under pressure, two of the strikes against Cundiff. Tucker went 4-for-4 from beyond 50 yards, including a 56-yarder at Philadelphia, tied for the longest in franchise history.
As for pressure, Tucker nailed a 47-yarder in the second overtime to win the AFC Divisional Round game at Denver, his third game-winner of the season. He also beat New England at the buzzer in the regular season, and hit a 38-yarder in overtime to beat San Diego -- this after making a 38-yarder on the final play of regulation to force overtime.
Tucker told WNST that he'll occasionally wear his Super Bowl ring, and he's ready to make another Super Bowl run.
"I'd like to do it again," Tucker said, "I'd like to do it again real soon."
"I know I speak for a bunch of people when I say you wake up the next morning after winning the Super Bowl and you want to do it again real quick."
As he often does, Tucker was quick to credit holder Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox, saying the routine the trio practices over and over and over again makes a difference.
"We pay such attention to detail," he said. "We don't really think many other people do it like we do, so as long as we're able to, we're gonna keep doing it just like that and hopefully we'll all have really long careers doing it that way."