Kicks Keep Coming For Graham

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After a few months in football limbo, with no team to call his own, kicker Shayne Graham waited until early June before he could call Baltimore home.

And now that he has one, don't try telling him to leave.

Even though most players use their time between the final organized team activity and training camp for vacation, Graham has been a regular at Ravens headquarters, slipping in at odd hours to keep his kicking leg sharp.

"Until I signed with the Ravens, I did most of my training at home in random facilities, maybe finding a field to kick on," Graham said.   "I was bouncing around. Once I got the certainty of where I was going to be and saw some of the best facilities in the NFL, I thought this was where I really needed to buckle down and get ready for training camp.

"It's just me in my own world.  I'll come in sometimes after hours, sometimes when Anquan [Boldin] and those guys are there in the morning.  I'm just there to get what I need to get done."

Signed on June 3 after a highly-successful seven years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Owings Mills has marked a rebirth of sorts for Graham.

The fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history (85.2 percent) was released after missing 28- and 35-yard field goals in the 2009 playoffs, a game that the Bengals lost.

Now, Graham has the chance to kick for a new team if he can beat out Billy Cundiff, who is training at his home in Arizona.

As such, a duffel bag full of footballs sits in front of Graham's locker, waiting to split the uprights in the Ravens' fieldhouse nearly every day.

"I take a day off here and there – it depends on if my leg is tired and I need a break," Graham said.  "I'm at the point in my career where I know how my body is going to respond to a certain amount of work."

Cundiff and Graham began the battle in OTAs, and each kicker even booted 60-yard field goals in one practice, but training camp is where things really heat up.

Graham has been in this situation before, despite spending the majority of his career as the Bengals' unquestioned kicker.

In 2002, Graham stepped in for an injured John Kasay and converted 13 of 18 field goals for the Carolina Panthers.  The following training camp, Graham got a shot against Kasay, who previously was the only kicker in Panthers' history.  

Graham estimated that both kickers connected on around 90 percent of their field goals that summer, but in the end, the veteran and beloved Kasay got the nod.

"It would have been like if Matt Stover had been injured in the middle of the season and they brought in some young guy, and then made Stover take part in a competition in the prime of his career when he came back," Graham said, noting the stalwart Ravens kicker.  "I understood why they would want to keep him, but Cincinnati claimed me the next day.

"The rest is history."

If anything, Graham is looking forward to his latest competition, which gets back underway next week.

"I think this competition gives it that added edge of adrenalin and it's going to make it more fun," explained Graham.  "It's what makes you enjoy the game, really.  I think that drive is why all of us in the league made it to this level.

"If you don't want to be the guy that's competing with something on the line, then you probably shouldn't be playing."

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