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Justin Tucker Didn't Take Long To Celebrate


After getting the news that he would be the Ravens' kicker going into the 2012 season, rookie Justin Tucker took some time to celebrate.

But not too much.

"I gave myself a minute," he said. "That's all I needed."

Tucker unseated former Pro Bowler Billy Cundiff for the starting job thanks to a stellar performance throughout training camp practices into the preseason.

The Ravens believe the undrafted rookie was simply the better kicker.

"He's earned it by the way he kicked in camp," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He won the competition, and that's why he is the kicker."

Both kickers performed well throughout training camp, but Tucker clearly had the edge. He was more consistent and accurate, especially from long-range. Tucker sealed the job after his performance in the preseason game against Jacksonville, where he handled  all of the kicking duties and he responded by making both of his field goals, from 33 and 53 yards.

That game showed the coaches that Tucker could handle the pressure of being "the guy."

"Putting him basically out front and putting the pressure on him to be the hunted instead of the hunter, and he handled that really well," Harbaugh said.

That final audition, along with this play over the last few months, gave the organization the confidence to go with the rookie. Now he insists that he won't change the approach that he's brought with him since earning a spot on the 90-man roster back in May after rookie minicamp.

"I really do appreciate the front office and the coaching staff putting their faith in me," Tucker said. "I will do everything I can to bring my lunch pail to work every day."

Harbaugh said the team considered a number of factors in the decision – age, experience, accuracy, long-distance kicking, ability to handle pressure – and that no single element ultimately led to the final call.

The one piece that wasn't part of the equation, Harbaugh said, was the fact that Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal in the AFC championship.

"No, because we brought Billy back," Harbaugh responded when asked if that game was part of the decision. "If it had been, he wouldn't have been back. We had confidence."

A strong case could be make for either kicker and Harbaugh did acknowledge* *that some people could second-guess the decision.

"We think we made the right decision, but you could make an argument the other way, and I think it's a fair argument," he said. "I'm sure that some of you guys will make it, and it will be fair. You just try to do what you think is best, and it will play out over the next couple of years."

Tucker still has to prove himself at the NFL level, but making pressure kicks is nothing new for him.

He was the starting kicker at Texas for the last two seasons, hitting 40 of 48 field-goal attempts and all 71 extra-point attempts.

His field career field-goal attempt at Texas was a 51-yarder, which he drilled. He never missed a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter and he nailed a game-winning field goal on the road as time expired to defeat rival Texas A&M.

"Kicking in front of a big crowd, playing on national TV quite a bit was really good for preparing all of us that have come out of there," Tucker said. "In that regard, I'm really thankful for the overall environment that I was brought up in."

Tucker will now look to carry over that experience to the professional game.

And now that the kicking job is his heading into the season, Tucker insists that he's not planning to alter the approach that got him to his point.

"In our world where everything can come down to very finite details, kind of going back to basics and just saying, 'Just kick the ball and kick it straight,'" Tucker said. "That's what I would tell myself when I would go hit a ball in preseason games or even just out here at practice every single day.

"I guess the thing that I've done well, I think, up through this point is just keep it simple and put it through."

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