The Ravens were working on situational drills and called upon second-year kicker Justin Tucker to attempt an end-of-half field goal during practice.
It was an otherwise typical drill for an NFL team to run during training camp.
Atypical was the fact that Tucker was asked to attempt this kick from 71 yards away. The kick went up and continued to carry. Receiver Jacoby Jones was in the end zone awaiting the kick in case it fell short.
That it did, with Jones catching the ball nine yards deep into the end zone and about three yards short of the uprights. That was the first time Tucker attempted a kick that long time during practice. Still, it was quite an impressive feat for a ball to travel about 68 yards through the air.
"I was kicking into a little but of a cross wind, a little bit of a breeze," Tucker said. "If they want to send me out there to lay away at the ball, I'm all for it. I love hitting 'em. Like I said, that's what I'm here for."
Tucker said the longest kick he's made was from 77 yards away, when he was training away from the facility and on his own time. He was aided with the wind at his back, which might have given it a little extra push.
Tucker's leg has been showcased throughout training camp, with the youngster out of Texas drilling kicks from 64, 62 and 61 yards away. It makes you wonder if the Ravens will give him a shot, if the situation calls for it, to kick for the NFL record of 63 yards in a game.
"He’s got a strong leg, and we’re going to use the weapon that we have," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "You have to strategically go into the game saying, ‘When would we use this?’ The field-position gamble is not worth it during a normal game situation, it’s just not worth it -- percentages are not with you. At the end of the half, with three seconds, you really have nothing to lose, so you try to find out his range, see how far you can make it from and make sure your protection is good. We don’t change the timing of the kick, and we just make it a normal field goal. And if he doesn’t make it, it’s nothing lost.”
A year ago, Tucker entered training camp undrafted and an underdog to supplant Billy Cundiff, even though Cundiff missed an easy 32-yard attempt in the 2011 AFC Championship that would have sent Baltimore to overtime.
Tucker then out-kicked Cundiff from start to finish in camp. He made 30 of 33 kicks in the regular season, including a game-winner against New England in Week 3. He made all four postseason attempts, including a game-winner in double overtime against Denver.
Tucker's early track record has given the Ravens' coaching staff confidence in him getting the job done.
"Around here, it's winning games," Tucker said. "Now, we've set the standard last year. It's winning the big one. The way we get there is going out on the practice field and having a good day tomorrow -- going out there and getting just a little bit better. It doesn't even start with Tampa Bay or Denver. It doesn't start with any of that yet. It starts with tomorrow."
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