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Battle kicks up a notch


Battle kicks up a notch

The battle between Justin Tucker and Billy Cundiff kicked up a notch in terms of intrigue on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium, with Tucker handling all the Ravens kicking duties and Cundiff saying afterward that he was shocked with that arrangement.

Tucker, the rookie from Texas who has been superb all training camp, was 2-for-2 on field goals, hitting from 33 and 53 yards, and made all six of his extra-point attempts in the Ravens 48-17 rout of the Jaguars. Tucker also kicked off nine times, with five touchbacks.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, though, cautioned against reading too much into that.

I think we know Billy, Harbaugh said in discussing the decision to go solely with Tucker. Billy would have come in here and made every one of those kicks. Billy is proven. Tuck is not proven. This is something that he needed. We needed to see if he could handle a whole game from beginning to end, and have the pressure on him, and obviously he handled it very well.

Tucker said he was told on Wednesday night that the Jaguars game was all his.

I was basically told from the get-go that they want to see how Im going to approach a game knowing that Im going to be the guy all four quarters, Tucker said, adding that he was pleased and happy for the opportunity.

That is in contrast to Cundiff, who said he had no idea until before the game that he would not be used. I felt like I had a really good week of practice. So itll just play itself out, he said.

Both kickers have excelled this preseason. Tucker is now 5-for-5 on field-goal tries in the three preseason games, including 2-for-2 from 50-plus yards. He has routinely hit 50-plus kicks in practice, and nailed a 63-yarder in the open practice at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this month.

Cundiff, whose miss in the AFC Championship Game last season is still fresh in some fans minds, is 2-for-2 in the preseason games and has also been impressive in practice.

Billy has had a great, great camp. Hes done really well, Harbaugh said.

But with one preseason game left and a final cutdown to 53 players due next Friday, somethings got to give.

We have to make some decisions here again next week, Harbaugh said. So well just have to see how that goes.

Said Tucker: All I can do is put my foot to the ball and use my training and go from there.

This is a professional atmosphere, he added. We come to work every day with a good attitude, and whatever happens, happens.

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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline


Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

Le'Veon Bell decided not to return to the Steelers this season, and his former teammates have apparently decided they can have his belongings. 

The All-Pro running back didn't sign his $14.5 million franchise tag by Tuesday's deadline, and thus is ineligible to play this season.

Steelers player were seen plundering his locker Wednesday in front of reporters. Defensive end Bud Dupree went right for Bell's cleats, thanking him for the Jordan brand shoes and saying he wishes Bell success.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters he sent Bell his well-wishes, but got no response from his former backfield mate. 

It's unclear what Bell plans to do next, but it's crystal clear the Steelers have moved on, with his shoes in tow. 


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Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco


Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has had his fair share of life changing moments. 

Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016, being drafted by the Ravens in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and come Sunday, possibly his first NFL start.

With Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, the 21-year-old could be leading the Ravens for a full 60 minutes against division rival Cincinnati Bengals in what could be a defining moment of their season.

"I'm just going into it like any other week," Jackson said Wednesday. "Just preparing for whatever."

While Jackson has appeared in all nine games going 7-for-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown, he is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 draft that has yet to start this season. 

When asked how he would feel if his name is called Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but added once the ball is snapped, "it's on."

Through the Ravens' first half of the season, how and when Jackson is utilized at either quarterback or receiver, has lacked consistency. Add in the lack of highlight reel passes from him and many are concerned he's not ready for an NFL start. 

The fast style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something Jackson admittedly struggled with throughout the preseason. But with nine regular season games under his belt, Jackson feels that is the area where he's taken the biggest strides. 

"Calling the plays," Jackson said. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Head coach John Harbaugh offered no insight on who would be their starting quarterback on Sunday and it can be expected he'll keep hush up until the last moment. Flacco was not on the practice field during media availability Wednesday, either. 

But let's not forget the other veteran quarterback on their roster; Robert Griffin III

For the first time since 2009, the Ravens decided to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for this very reason.

After sitting out of football for a year, RGIII was given a second chance in Baltimore, but has been a gameday inactive since the start of the season. If the week progresses and neither Flacco or Jackson seem ready, it could be the comeback of the once Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday on if he feels prepared to possibly start. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Both RGIII and Jackson said that it would be "awesome" if they were named the starting QB on Sunday, but that no matter who it ends up being they're all here for one another.

"I'm going to continue to help [Lamar] just like I have all season because we're about the Ravens here," Griffin III said. "It's not about individuals. We've got a pretty daunting task ahead with this Bengals team and then just with the rest of our schedule, so we've got to make sure we make the most of every opportunity."