Someone Is Messing With
How important is Justin Tucker to the Ravens?
Let’s see, we’ve won three of our last four games to put ourselves in the thick of the playoff chase. The first of the three wins came against Cincinnati when “Tuck” hit a 46-yard field goal in overtime to secure a 20-17 victory. The second triumph was the 19-3 decision over the Jets when Justin made four of four field goals. And, the third came Thanksgiving night after Justin made all five of his field-goal attempts in the two-point, 22-20 win over the Steelers.
Think about Thanksgiving week. Tucker kicked nine field goals in five days, scoring 29 of the Ravens’ 41 points. Heck, we should be driving this guy to and from work in a Brink’s truck. (It also shows that our offense is getting better – moving regularly into scoring position; we only punted once against the Steelers – but we’ll have to score more touchdowns if we want to secure a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season.)
Tucker Not Alone
One of the best things about “Tuck” is that he fully realizes that he can’t do this alone. “The offense has to move the ball for me to have these opportunities,” he said on Wednesday. His reliance and respect for long snapper
Remember, this was all going to be on national television. Justin looked up and said: “Would you mind getting Sam and Morgan over here? They should be in this with me.” You could see how much pride those two guys felt as they stood behind Tucker, who playfully stuffed a napkin into the top of his jersey during the segment.
“He’s the best kicker I’ve worked with,” Koch said. “He has a lot of strengths. It’s impressive the way he adjusts to wind, to cold and wet conditions, to snaps and holds that aren’t quite right. No matter, he just kicks it straight.”
Assistant Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, who coordinates our special teams, marvels at the second-year kicker. “He’s a tremendous teammate. He wants us to score touchdowns, but he clearly wants the game on his shoulders. He’s excited about wanting the kick and the pressure that comes with it. You see it in his body language, his eyes. He’s saying, ‘Let’s go! Give me the opportunity,’” Rosburg complimented.
Here’s what Peter King of NBC and Monday Morning Quarterback said on Monday: “Justin Tucker, in 32 career games including playoffs, has made 93 percent of his field goals (63 of 68). That says two things: Tucker should be DNA tested for the clutch gene. And the NFL needs to do something to make field goals harder.”
The Streak And The Ninja
Tucker has made 27 field goals in a row. That’s the longest current streak in the NFL and the second longest in Ravens history to Matt Stover’s 36 from 2005-06.
Justin has to do all of this after overcoming some pre-game locker room shenanigans. “Deion Sanders was my football hero when I was a kid. I read that he laid out his entire uniform on the floor before he dressed for every game. I do that as part of my pre-game routine,” Tucker explained.
“He puts everything on the floor,” Koch added. “His helmet, his pads, his undergarments, even the tape he is going to put on. Everything.”
However, since the first game of his rookie season a year ago, someone has come by and messed the layout of the uniform.
“Must be a ninja, a very clever and stealthy ninja,” Cox offered.
“I don’t want this to be like an NCAA thing that says you’re guilty until you’re proven innocent, but I think I know who is doing this. Right now, I only have a source – no proof – but I’m going to find out,” Tucker said.
“I try to keep an eye on his uniform for him, but this ninja is very clever and has escaped my view,” Cox reported. “I feel like I’ve failed him, because he has asked me to watch over the layout and, somehow, it always gets messed up. This ninja seems to take great pride in this mischief.”
Tucker seems almost resigned to this foul play. “Our business is about adapting and overcoming. But, we will find the culprit.”
Which brings us to his streak of 27 in a row. I wouldn’t ask Tucker about it. To me, that’s bad karma. Instead, I asked Stover about dealing with the pressures of successful runs.
“You don’t want to talk about it when it’s happening, but you’re glad to because it means you’re doing well. You cherish it, but you stay humble, because you know you’re vulnerable every time you go out there.
“You say to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m doing well. Enjoy it.’ Because when you miss a few, the whole world will be talking about it and asking why,” Stover said.
And, does Matt remember how his long streak ended? “It was so makeable. A 42-yarder from the right hash, going to the closed end of M&T (opposite the tunnels). It was against the Falcons, and we won the game.”
Tucker is confident. “I don’t even acknowledge when people mention a streak. We (Koch and Cox) work hard on the fundamentals of the kick. Our confidence comes from all the work on the practice field. We pay attention to the details, and we know we always have the chance to be successful.”
Randy Brown, the Ravens’ kicking consultant who works closely with Tucker, marvels at Justin’s ability. “What separates him is that he wants the kick in the fourth quarter. He’s Michael Jordan at the end of a game or a great closer in baseball. ‘Give me the ball.’ Like a great golfer, he has perfected his stroke, his leg swing,” Brown complimented.
Senior VP Thrown To The Ground
Speaking of leg swings, take a look at the video below as the 315-pound
Here’s the background. Jones, one of the really good guys on the Ravens, was a two-time New York state heavyweight wrestling champion in high school. I was a below average college wrestler, but that hasn’t stopped me from kidding with Jones: “You heavyweights wrestle in slow motion. The real wrestlers, the best athletes, are always the lighter weights.” Jones usually replies with something simple, like: “Anytime. You know where to find me.” And, I, of course, say something stupid like: “You better bring some help.”
Well, last week, Jones stood before me and got into his stance and challenged: “Any time you want?” I playfully – and I repeat, playfully – grabbed his elbow and said: “I could do anything I want with you right now.”
Last words I heard before my legs were swept off the ground, and I was slammed to the turf with Arthur landing on top of me were, “No you can’t.”
So ends my wrestling career.
But, our season is not over. Let’s continue winning. Let’s beat the Vikings!
Talk with you next week,