Sam Koch may have only punted three times last week against the Miami Dolphins, but he certainly made each one count.
Koch placed all three boots inside his opponent's 20-yard line and two of the three within the 10.
Averaging 42.9 net yards per kick, the NFL's best mark, the former sixth-round draft pick may be having the best season of his four-year career. Koch attributes his stellar campaign to an offseason dedicated to minor improvements.
"I'm playing as consistent as I have in a long time, even dating back to college," said the Nebraska product. "I did a lot of work on dropping the ball and how it's positioned, which gives me more consistency.
"Leg extension was also a big thing. That lets me follow through a lot more."
Some of the changes to Koch's technique came at the hands of new special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who has a reputation for special teams success after stints in Atlanta and Cleveland.
For one of the bigger tweaks, Rosburg has Koch using a different grip while angling the nose of the football slightly downward on his drop.
"The new drop has really contributed to my success," Koch said. "We changed that hand-placement on the ball for more of a natural drop, rather than trying to time all the fingers when you're dropping the ball."
Koch's average of 59.0 yards in Miami set a career high. He added a 67-yard boot in the fourth quarter that tied a franchise record, pinned the Dolphins on their own 12-yard line and effectively ended any hopes of a late comeback.
"The last one that heat was on," explained Rosburg. "It was the last punt of the game, to win the game, and they got a guy loose. And Sam, the combination of he and [holder] Matt Katula together, got that ball off very quickly. The fact that he not only hit it, I think, 67 yards, if I'm not mistaken, but where he placed it [was amazing].
"We were able to put the guy down on the ground and that made it difficult for them to come back at that point. They had a long way to go and not much time to get there."
With 28 punts for 1,344 yards already this year, Koch is on pace to kick 75 times for 3,584 yards, and his projected 47.8-yard average would shatter the Ravens' record of 43.9 yards (set by Kyle Richardson in 1998).
Koch's offseason did not focus solely on technique, however. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Koch was diligent in his conditioning and in the weight room, something Rosburg appreciates.
"I thought Sam was good coming here, and I think that the work that Sam put into the offseason, everyone else is starting to see what we've been seeing all the way through OTAs, training camp and our practice sessions," the coordinator said.
Wideout Derrick Mason was a limited participant in Friday's practice due to an illness. Head coach John Harbaugh attributed Mason's ailment to a headache, and the Pro Bowler was listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
Mason was joined on the questionable list by fellow wideouts Mark Clayton (thigh) and Demetrius Williams (ankle), cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) and safety Ed Reed (thigh).
In addition, receiver Yamon Figurs (knee) is doubtful, which means there is only a 25 percent chance he'll suit up.
Harbaugh Stands By Sizzle
In light of linebacker Terrell Suggs' comments to an Atlanta radio station that some construed to mean the Ravens had a "bounty" on Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward, Harbaugh said the matter was closed between player and coach.
"The thing he's told me is his thought in his mind, he wasn't talking about money," Harbaugh said. "He was very clearly talking about the fact that you've always got certain guys you need to stop and certain guys you need to look at that are physical players or good players."
As much scrutiny as the incident has received in local and national media, Harbaugh didn't think it was a distraction as the Ravens prepare for the Oakland Raiders.
"It's interesting, because the stuff with the distraction stuff is so much more from the outside than it is from the inside," the coach said. "We've had a great week of meetings. The guys don't think about it, they don't talk about it much.
"They might be jabbing Sizzle in the ribs a little about it and having some fun with it, but beyond that their focus is on football. It's not something they dwell on, really at all."
As to whether he thought there actually was any bounty-talk going on in the Ravens' locker room, Harbaugh was very definitive in his answer.
"No. No, absolutely not," he stated. "It's not something that I've ever seen in 10 years with the NFL."
Quarterback Joe Flacco earned NFLPA Rookie of the Week honors for Week 7 this season. He completed 73.9 percent of his passes against the Dolphins for 232 yards and one touchdown, totaling a career-best 120.2 passer rating…Suggs and his Team Sizzle Worldwide organization are holding a three-day celebrity event this weekend coinciding with his 26th birthday, which fell on Oct. 11. The kickoff Las Vegas-style party is tonight, and Harbaugh was left wondering where his invitation was. "I guess there's three days of celebration, right?" he asked with a laugh. "I don't know if I've been invited, in fact. I'll have to talk to him about that."…The Ravens need only one win to reach 100 regular season victories.