Sam Koch has been the only player to punt for the Ravens in the regular season since 2006, when they drafted him in the sixth round out of Nebraska.
However, Koch's streak of 239 consecutive games is expected to end Sunday. He was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week and Head Coach John Harbaugh does not expect Koch to be available against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm pretty sure he's going to be out based on the day count," Harbaugh said. "That's the way I'm reading it right now. I'm just assuming he's not going to be there."
Koch has the NFL's third-longest active consecutive game streak behind Dallas Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur (252 games) and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (240). Koch set the Ravens franchise record earlier this season.
Harbaugh said he expects Koch to be available next week should the Ravens make the playoffs.
The Ravens signed Johnny Townsend this week to be ready to punt in Cincinnati. Townsend hasn't punted in an NFL game since 2018, but he was with the Ravens for 11 days in training camp and Harbaugh believes Townsend will adapt quickly.
"It worked out really well," Harbaugh said. "He was in training camp for us. He had a very good understanding of how he operates as a punter and a holder. Also he knows what we like and what we want to do and understands our operation. We're very happy to have him. He had a good day today in practice. Expect him to do very well in the game."
Townsend Will Hold for Justin Tucker
Koch will be missed not only as a punter, but as the holder for kicker Justin Tucker. Townsend can handle that responsibility as well, which is one reason the Ravens signed him.
The teamwork and timing displayed for years by the Ravens' "Wolfpack" trio of Tucker, Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox is a major reason why Tucker is the league's most accurate kicker. Former Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Koch the best holder in NFL history.
"It's not hyperbole what Jerry says about Sam's holding ability," Harbaugh said. "It's a big deal. Obviously the success speaks for itself. Johnny is a good holder. We've seen him do it up close. He did it again today. We're not worried about that part of it.
"For us, it's going to be a big consideration for the punter always, who the holder is, because we do feel like it's very important."
Jayron Kearse Could Be Called Up
Newly-acquired safety Jayron Kearse, who was signed Thursday to the practice squad, will be available to add more depth to the secondary behind starting safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott.
The 26-year-old Kearse started seven games for the Detroit Lions this season before he was released Monday. Harbaugh said he was pleased when General Manager Eric DeCosta said he was pursuing Kearse.
"He's done a great job this week in practice," Harbaugh said. "He's a guy that we could elevate really anytime if we needed a safety. Also he's been a very good special teams player. That was a big plus for us."
Hollywood Relishes Overcoming Adversity
Since being held without a catch Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown has scored a touchdown in four of the last five games. Brown's overall numbers (53 catches, 728 yards, six touchdowns, 13.7 yards per catch) are up from his rookie season in 2019 (46 catches, 584 yards, seven touchdowns, 12.7 yard per catch).
He has also remained healthy after playing through pain in 2019, still recovering from Lisfranc foot surgery. Brown's practice reps were monitored closely as a rookie, but he has been a regular at practices this season.
"It's a blessing," Brown said. "That was one of my goals. I told Coach Harbaugh coming into training camp that I wanted to make it through the season, and I wanted to play in all 16 games. God willing, I'm a game away."
Brown had a tough string of games earlier this season when his production was down and he dropped several passes that he normally catches. However, Brown has dealt with doubters his entire life, due to his diminutive size for an NFL receiver. He didn't let the mistakes, or the critics, shake his confidence.
"Any adversity, when you come out the back end, it's always going to be a blessing," Brown said. "That's how my whole life has been. When I'm faced with adversity, it's never getting down on myself. It's just the next thing that comes up, I've got to do it. If I make another mistake, I'm going to get another opportunity. That's just how I look at life. When you're faced with adversity, the sun's going to come out again. You have to keep trying."