JUSTIN TUCKER PRESS CONFERENCE
E*_xecutive Vice President/General Manager Eric DeCosta, Head Coach John Harbaugh & K Justin Tucker_*
Eric DeCosta opening statement:"Thanks, guys, for coming in today. It's a busy time for everybody. I appreciate you guys coming in. I'm very happy to announce that we have reached a deal, a four-year extension, with Justin Tucker, that runs through the 2023 season. We're ecstatic, and as we've said this offseason, our goal is to bring back as many of our best players as we can, and I think Justin certainly qualifies. He's the best kicker in the league, in my opinion. I think we all feel that way in the organization, and we're very excited."
John Harbaugh opening statement:"We just couldn't be happy enough. It's something I know Eric [DeCosta] has been thinking about for quite a while, and I know it came together really quickly, so all credit to our personnel department – Eric, Pat [Moriarty, senior vice president of football administration], Nick [Matteo, director of football administration] and those who negotiate – and Justin's people, too. I think everybody was on the same page of that thing. I just got word, and I was like, 'Wow, great! It's done! That's awesome!' I think this was a long way in the making.
"Just one observation: as good as Justin has been, it's always a team effort. We're talking about the Wolfpack and the job these three guys [LS Morgan Cox and P Sam Koch] do together, and Justin was just saying that this is probably as long a running group, partnership, in the National Football League as there is and maybe has been for quite a long time, and very successful. And then also, the other people involved, with coach [Jerry] Rosburg, coach [Chris] Horton, coach [Randy] Brown and the job that they've done with these guys ... I can remember – doesn't seem that long ago, Jerry – when you went down to Texas, and you and Randy collaborated on this, and said you had this guy, and you thought he was going to be special. Not too many people seemed to know too much about you, I guess."
Justin Tucker:"I was hiding at the University of Texas." (laughter)
Harbaugh:"They just couldn't find you there in Austin! And you came in, I think, for a tryout, if I remember right, and the very first kick was just … Randy [Brown], remember? For me, it was like, 'Wow, he's pretty good! Where'd we find this guy?' It was like you said. 'Texas.' Really, the rest is history, and I think it's a credit to Justin, an amazing family man and amazing family. I think his best kicking – believe it or not – his best kicking is in front of us still."
Justin Tucker opening statement:"I should absolutely start by saying thank you to Eric [DeCosta] and 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and the Ravens for placing their faith in me to continue building upon what we've got going here. I think we're trending in the right direction as a team, and I'm just incredibly excited to be a part of it. I want to acknowledge coach [Jerry] Rosburg, Randy Brown, Chris Horton, my teammates, especially Morgan Cox and Sam Koch. They are, hands down, the best in the business at what they do. They make my job so much easier, and not only are they great teammates, but they're great friends of mine. So, to be able to continue to work with such a great group and work toward building more winning football, it's incredibly exciting. I'm sure I'll leave somebody out on accident, but I definitely want to acknowledge my wife, Amanda, and my little boy, Easton. They're the reasons why … Our families are the reasons why any of us do what we do, and they inspire me to perform to the best of my ability and to work my tail off to put the best product out there on the field, along with our fans. We're blessed to work in a city where our fans know ball and they love ball. I definitely want to give them a shout-out, because we have the best fans in the league. And, I guess I'll open it up for questions if that's what you guys would like to do."
Justin, will it be a load off your mind to not have this be an unresolved situation going into the season and as the season carries on? (Childs Walker)
Tucker: "It certainly is, and isn't, all at the same time. There's always the business side of football that's in the back of any player's mind at any given time. But, that doesn't change the preparation in any way whatsoever. Morgan [Cox] and Sam [Koch] and Randy [Brown] and Chris [Horton] and I, and Jerry [Rosburg], for these last seven years, we've all prepared the same way. It's Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, take it to Sunday. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, take it to Sunday. One kick at a time. The body of work that we stand on serves as our foundation. But, like I said, we're building. We're trying to build not a house, we're trying to build a skyscraper. We're trying to do amazing things, and the only way you do that is just by working."
Justin, you showed this past season that you were human by missing the extra point. How did that affect you? Did you learn from that? What did you go through after that? (Kirk McEwen)
Tucker:"So, thanks for bringing that up. (laughter) I think it's incredibly important for any football player, any athlete, anybody, to learn from both your successes and your failures. Just to tell you where I'm heading with this, that particular football that I kicked in that game and I missed that kick – and there's no other way to just say it than, 'I missed the kick' – that particular football is going to go on my shelf next to every single other game ball or Player of the Week ball that I've been fortunate enough to receive since I've been playing. Because, that's a part of my story, and I want to be able to look at that and realize that was a learning moment. It was, perhaps, a pivotal moment for me as a professional.
"It's kind of funny, I'll tell you another brief anecdote: My mother-in-law was watching our little boy Easton while we were out of town for just a quick trip, me and Amanda. She was showing Easton a video on a computer of me kicking a ball, and the first thing she clicked on was me slipping on the field in San Francisco and missing a kick, and Easton just kind of thought it was funny. He was two at the time. He just thought it was funny, but I kind of look at that, and I look at this experience that I had this past season as learning moments, not just for myself, but for Easton and for any other young person. So, I look at that and I tell Easton, 'You know what the next thing you do is? If you fall down, what do you do? You get right back up. You just keep working. You keep trying.' In this business, it's not just about working and trying. It's about performing. The only way you get to that elite level of performance is by outworking everybody. The foundation, it starts with effort." (Reporter: "Do you have the actual football that was kicked on that extra point? How did you track that down?")"I do. We have an excellent equipment staff."
Harbaugh:"They wanted to make sure you had it."
Eric, signing a player before he gets to his free agent year, does that take a lot of the stress off the franchise knowing you get these guys' deals done before they go into their walk years? (Todd Karpovich)
DeCosta:"It takes stress off of me. We hate to lose good players, and this offseason, we saw that happen too many times. We've tried to be proactive. It's a mindset that we've tried to adopt. We thought this would really be a good time for us to get started. We talked about it at length in Jupiter, [Fla.], what our strategies would be and how we could go about getting some of our best players signed before they become free agents. So today, actually, was great, because we had Justin up in my office signing his contract, and two hours later, we had Marshal [Yanda] up in my office signing his contract – two of our very best players that we've had in the last 15 years or so. That's a great feeling, and it helps us also plan ahead looking at next year, what our situation is going to look like, what our cap situation is going to look like, and what the roster is going to look like. So, having that ability to look in the crystal ball and see, it really helps us moving forward."
Justin, this is the first time we've gotten to talk to you since former special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg announced his retirement. What did you make of that? What's your reaction? What do you think next year will be like? (Aaron Kasinitz)
Tucker:"When coach [Jerry] Rosburg first called me to let me know that he was going to make his retirement announcement officially, I was kind of at a loss for words, because like coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] said, this is a man who came and found me and gave me the start to my career that I may not have had otherwise. He found me at the University of Texas, where I was hiding down there playing in front of 100,000 people for all our home games. (laughter)In all seriousness, coach Rosburg, not just the coach but the man, has been, and will continue to be, one of the most important people in my life. So, I'm equal parts sad, in a sense, that these last seven years are kind of now tucked away, in a sense, but very happy for coach Rosburg and his family. He has put together, in my humble opinion, a career that is second to none, as far as special teams coaches, as far as any coaches, go. And, I count myself as incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to work with coach Rosburg for the last seven years." (Reporter: "Any plans for a special retirement gift, especially with the new contract?") "I think I'd better start making plans if I hadn't already, but we'll work on something for you." (laughter)
Jerry Rosburg:"Good question." (laughter)
When you go back to that first summer here, K Billy Cundiff is here. You were an undrafted rookie. Jerry Rosburg discovered you at Texas. Were there other teams that you came close to signing with back then? Did it feel right with Jerry, so you decided you were going to win the job here? How much does that mentality work coming as an undrafted rookie into camp? (Bo Smolka)
Tucker:"I did have a couple of opportunities in the eighth round of the draft. (laughter) I got a couple of phone calls, and they were from the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams. I grew up watching the Cowboys and loving the Cowboys, and the early '90s Cowboys teams were some of my favorite ones growing up. But, the decision was already made well before the eighth round of the draft that the best opportunity for me and my family was going to be for me to compete for a job here in Baltimore. And, it was one of those things that you make the decision, you don't even think twice about it, and you just put your head down and you work, and you put your best foot forward. We're blessed to be siting here today, seven, eight years later. The mentality is the same. I'm not necessarily competing with anybody else on the roster at this given moment that has been an incumbent or a player that has played here before, but I'm competing with myself. I'm competing with what I think I should be able to do. The standard that coach [Jerry] Rosburg and 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and Randy [Brown] and Chris [Horton] … The standard, the bar that we have set here, is high, and working to meet those expectations is of utmost importance."
Not a lot of kickers are drafted. Was that experience for you some sort of impetus toward your success? What would you say to those kickers who, this weekend, hope to hear their names, and many of them won't? (Mark Viviano)
Tucker:"I would say any player that doesn't get their name called, or that does get their name called, you still have to come in and compete. Whether you're penciled in as a 'starter,' you have to come in and earn your spot. You have to do your job, and it starts with doing little things right. Whenever we get a chance to meet our draft class, if anyone is asking me, that's what I'm going to tell them. You have to work your way through the ranks. I believe it starts with special teams. I think, if you earn your way onto the field battling on special teams, that's a huge part of why we've won games. We don't look at our special teams as an auxiliary part of our team, and that's one of the coolest things about playing here in Baltimore, is our coaches and our players value special teams. So, anybody that does get their name called or doesn't get their name called, my opinion is you just have to work and earn your way."
You've been here since 2012, and now get a four-year extension. The opportunity to deepen your roots here with this community, not just with the Ravens but with the community, what does that mean to you? (Pete Gilbert)
Tucker:"It's really, really cool. Like I said before, we have the best fans in football. We have a really, really cool city made up of diverse, hardworking people. Not to keep going back to this somewhat negative moment that I had this last football season, but I got to see a very, very cool, positive side of our city that I might not have seen otherwise. The outreach from fans and the support from the Ravens Flock, if you will, was astounding. It was almost unsettling. I kind of was bracing myself for the worst, and what I got was an outpouring of support. It was really, really cool. It's something that I hope all of our players and people involved here really embrace and don't take for granted, because it's really cool. But, as far as getting a chance to stay here and keep working here and deepen roots in the community like you just said, it's a really good deal, and I certainly hope to do exactly that."
Since last year, offensive and defensive sides of the ball had so much turnover, so much change from last year to this year. You remain one of the constants over the years. Can you kind of assess where this team is right now, moving forward with all this change and where you fit in, being that constant holdover? (Shawn Stepner)
Tucker:"I kind of feel like that question might be better answered by our head coach or our GM. (laughter) But, what I can tell you is, I'm incredibly excited to continue to contribute in whatever way that I can. I'll just leave it as broad as, we're trending in the right direction, and it's incredibly exciting."
Eric, how quickly did this deal come together? (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta:"I think pretty fast. We had sort of a timeframe for different things that we've done along the way, and Justin was obviously a player that we wanted to get done. We were trying to get through the draft meetings that we had and the pro days and some of the other things, the owners meetings and all these various things in March and in early April. But [it was] pretty quickly. We have a good relationship with Justin's agent. We've done deals with him in the past. I'll just be honest, from my standpoint, No. 1, he's the best kicker in the league. So, if you agree to that, it's pretty easy to get a deal done. I'm not a big believer in wasting a lot of time. We were aggressive, and it takes two sides to get a deal done. We were very happy to get it done."
Eric, you talked about G Marshal Yanda. Can you tell us what that means in the big picture? Is he committed to playing two years? How does that change things for him? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta:"That's Marshal's decision. It's going to be up to Marshal, but I think he feels the best he's felt in years. He would tell you that. He's healthy this offseason. He's excited about the future, where we're headed as a team, as an offense. He loves Baltimore. He's a historic player here, and he didn't like the idea of going into the last year of his contract, and quite honestly, we didn't either. So again, it was one of these deals that made a sense for both sides, and as I said at the outset, anytime you can bring back two of your very best players, veteran players who bring leadership, community involvement, consistency and just great football play, it's a no-brainer."
Justin, I know team success is always going to be your No. 1 goal, but are there personal goals that you have, that you're comfortable sharing, for the long term? (Jonas Shaffer)
Tucker:"Not that I would feel fully comfortable sharing, because as soon as you put some concrete number out there, you're held to that. So, what I would say is, I'm going to take it one kick at a time, and try to take that 90 percent number to 91, and then hopefully 91 to 92, and along the way, win a lot of games."