Hauschka Works to Succeed Stover

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As the Ravens' kickoff specialist, Steve Hauschka participated in less than 10 snaps during each of the 11 games in which he played last season.

Even though he saw such limited action, Hauschka admitted he was pretty winded when Baltimore marched all the way to the AFC Championship.

The 22-year-old was not used to playing that much football.

Over three years of kicking at Division III Middlebury College, Hauschka and the Panthers would only play eight times per season. A one-year stint at NC State in 2007 did yield 12 games, but college football is hardly the full-time job that the NFL is.

"It happens to all the rookies," he said with a laugh. "It's such a long season, at least 17 games and there are playoff games. That's a lot more than I'm used to. I played eight games for three years in college, and then 12 games my year at NC State.

"So, I was definitely not prepared for those 20 games last year."

Now, nearly five months before the Ravens' 2009 campaign is set to begin, Hauschka is doing everything he can to make sure he is prepared for the long haul.

"It's been a couple of different things," explained Hauschka. "For one, I've been in the weight room trying to build some strength and work on some exercises that I can do throughout the season so I don't have decline in strength towards the end of the season like I thought I did last year. Maintaining that throughout the entire year is important to me.

"The other thing I've been working on is watching film, breaking down the technique of my kicking style."

The time spent at the Ravens' headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., is critical for the second-year talent. When Baltimore declined to re-sign Matt Stover after 19 years of service, Hauschka became the only kicker on the roster.

Hauschka isn't delusional, though. He knows that he won't simply be given the job.

There is a slight chance that Stover could eventually be brought back or that the Ravens would draft a kicker. More likely, the Ravens will add a free agent before training camp.

The extra leg could come from a pool of currently available journeymen, such as John Carney or Martin Gramatica.

Coming out of college, there are also some top kicking prospects. Utah's Louis Sakoda was a first-team All-American. Graham Gano of Florida State won the 2008 Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best kicker. And, West Virginia's Pat McAfee was a finalist for the Groza and the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the best punter in college football.

According to Hauschka, it is all part of the business of being a kicker.

"There is always competition," Hauschka said. "They could bring in a veteran kicker at any moment, so the only thing you can focus on is your own talent and your own skill set. If you take care of that, then you'll have a job."

Hauschka, who measures in at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, won a spot last year for his prowess kicking off.

He did that 32 times in the regular season, placing 8 in the end zone for three touchbacks. In the playoffs, Hauschka blasted 4 of his 13 kickoffs in the end zone and recorded three touchbacks.

Working closely with Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and assistant Marwan Maalouf, Hauschka is focusing hard on field goals.

"My mentality hasn't changed much from the end of last season," Hauschka said. "My whole thought process is just to get to be the best kicker I can be during the offseason, and everything else will take care of itself."

The Needham, Mass., native has taken some tips from the film room to the field, such as opening up his hip and foot so he strikes the football more cleanly.

"We're on the same page [with the coaches]," he continued. "We've gone over the things that I'm going to adjust, and I think that will help me a lot as a field goal kicker."

A look back at Hauschka's career offers evidence that he can do it, too.

While at NC State, Hauschka handled all kicking duties, going 25-for-25 on PATs and hitting 16 of 18 field goals with a long of 49 yards. He was even a perfect 8-for-8 on attempts between 40-49 yards.

Last year, Hauschka connected on a 53-yarder in the Ravens' Week 10 matchup with the Houston Texans.

Is Hauschka ready to shoulder more of the field goal burden moving forward?

"There's no question I am," he confidently said. "I don't get nervous at all on the field. I'm confident in myself. I think I definitely have a future in it."

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Who should kick for the Ravens in 2009? Tell us what you think!

Who should kick for the Ravens in 2009? Tell us what you think!

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