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Ravens’ Sam Koch discusses consistency, Justin Tucker and the punt return battle

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Punters don’t usually receive the spotlight, but Sam Koch has earned it.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Koch is one of the more unheralded players for the Ravens. Being a punter, fans and coaches alike are usually displeased when he trots out onto the field in the event of a stalled drive. When he does boot ball, Koch often makes the most of a negative situation.

Koch has played in 12 NFL seasons for the Ravens, averaging 45.2 yards per punt. The consistent veteran punter hasn’t missed a game during that span and is part of one of the most prolific special teams staffs headed by coordinator Jerry Rosburg and it’s main attraction, kicker Justin Tucker. The trio of Koch, Tucker and long snapper Morgan Cox have continued to work on being a cohesive unit to begin the 2018 campaign.

“Me and [Justin] Tucker — each year we come out here, it’s like starting over,” Koch said. “We go out there and try to focus on the fundamentals that we had from last year and build upon those. And from punting, to the timing of the snap, to the timing of the whole operation with the punt team and the rest of the guys — it takes a lot of time to build that up and with these preseason games, it’s been very helpful.

“It’s one of those things with Tucker and Morgan [Cox] on field goal snaps, it’s all that timing and building up that foundation.”

The 36-year old punter has had a lot of experience with witnessing battles for the kick return and punt return jobs with the Ravens over the course of his career. This preseason, Tim White and Janarion Grant have been the focus of the battle with Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore respectively taking in punt and kick return duties.

“We’ve got a lot of athletes out there and a lot of guys that have a lot of potential to be a great punt returner or kick returner for us,” Koch said of Baltimore’s return men. “We have a lot of guys with a lot of skill and it’s just one of those things that we keep on practicing. I show them various balls, so when they go out there on game day, they’re not surprised by certain ones and keep focusing on the fundamental aspects of that.”

Koch was one of the most prolific punters inside the 20-yard line last season, averaging 47.6% of his kicks there. He trailed only Johnny Hekker (50.0%) and Chris Jones (51.5%) in that stat in 2017. To continue his dominance in the punt game, Koch has continued to practice different types of kicks and added more to his arsenal as time has gone on.

“I think it’s more so just kind of refining what I have and making little tweaks from there and stuff that we can get better at in certain situations,” said Koch on practicing different kicks. “Whether it’d be with the win variables or grass versus sod, versus turf type of stuff.

“One of those things with the new grass out here [Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills], things are playing a little different with it being so new. It’s one of those things where we’ve kind of adjust to and kind of make it somewhat like a game. Miami has new turf this week that they just put down — it’ll be very similar to this. It’ll be nice to practice on something like that and learn that before we go down.”

Kaare Vedvik has been the latest specialist that Baltimore has brought into camp. The Norway native has impressed, showing off the leg strength and accuracy to be a good punter or kicker in the NFL. Vedvik could follow the likes of Will Lutz and Graham Gano who have gone on to have successful careers after departing from the Ravens after the preseason. Koch has been delighted with Vedvik through camp.

“Kaare Vedvik is probably by far one of the most impressive guys that I’ve seen come through here,” Koch gushed about his fellow punter. “Whether it be through his punting or kicking, he’s done a great job. His ability to go out there and perform the way that he has, has been truly phenomenal.

“He has a great leg — which you have to have a great leg in this league to begin with, but his ability to pay attention to the details as a rookie, has been one of those things that you don’t see from a lot of people. He truly wants to get better and he’s taking all of the information that whether me or Jerry [Rosburg] or Randy [Brown] or Tucker is giving him and he’s taking it and using it. It’s been a delight to see him grow in just these very few weeks that we’ve had him and the way he continues to grow each day.”