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Mack Brown: 'He never missed a critical kick'

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Mack Brown: 'He never missed a critical kick'

Indeed, Justin Tucker has range.

The undrafted rookie out of Texas not only won the starting job with the Ravens because of his stronger and more accurate leg but he also comes with a different vibe. He beat out Billy Cundiff, who was a veteran and in the Pro Bowl just two seasons ago.

"I got a chance to celebrate and call everyone in my family and a few of my good friends from school and let them know some good news," Tucker said Monday in his first remarks since winning the job over the weekend. "Right after that you have to put your head down and get right back to work."

One of those people Tucker communicated with was longtime Longhorns coach Mack Brown, who recruited him out of Westlake High School in Austin. Tucker's versatility stands out.

"I've text his dad a number of times and I text back and forth with Justin. We're really proud of him and know he'll do a great job for the Ravens," Brown told CSNBaltimore on Monday. "He's smart. Very smart. He's full of spirit and energy. He can rap and he can sing opera. That tells you the range of personality he has."

Really, Tucker does. He was a music recording technology major and auditioned to get accepted into his major by performing opera. He rapped with his Longhorn teammates.

More importantly, Tucker can kick. He not only was more accurate than Cundiff throughout training camp but he had the stronger leg. In last week's game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tucker nailed a 53-yarder with plenty of room to spare.

"He's in great shape. He was an outstanding receiver and defensive back at Westlake High School on top of being a kicker so he's a very good athlete. He never missed a critical kick for us," Brown said of Tucker, who made 40 of 48 field goals (83.3) for Texas and never missed a fourth-quarter field goal. "When it got down to a tough kick he always made them. At the same time we had him punting, he can regular punt, he can rugby punt. We had him kicking off and we had him doing field goals and extra points. We really wore him out."

Speaking earlier in the day, Tucker maintains he has never dealt with adversity as a kicker, which seems inevitable in the NFL and especially the AFC North with outdoor winter conditions in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

"I've never really had any major lows, or at least I wouldn't tell myself that I'd had any," Tucker said. "Just keep it simple and take one kick at a time. That's all you can do."

The first part of his comment mirrored what Brown said: "He's so confident if he had a rough spot he wouldn't think that. He'd work himself through it. He's a very tough guy mentally."

And what about the pressure? Cundiff cracked under it when he missed 32-yarder that would've sent last season's AFC Championship Game vs. the New England Patriots. Harbaugh said that wasn't a factor in choosing Tucker instead.

"We brought Billy back. If it had been, he wouldn't have been back," Harbaugh said. "We had confidence. Billy kicked well. Billy could very easily be the kicker here."

Brown is not concerned about Tucker under pressure. Tucker hit a 40-yarder as the clock expired in the final game of a long-held rivalry.

"The media here is like a pro media. We're considered like the pro team, from a media standpoint and exposure standpoint. We're like an NFL team in Austin," Brown said. "He kicked a last-second field goal to beat A&M in the last game of the rivalry at their place in front of 86,000 Aggies. It doesn't get much bigger than that if you're really looking at the pressure. He's more than prepared."

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

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A Norwegian soccer player turned kicker, Kaare Vedvik fighting for chance on Ravens roster

Twenty-four-year-old Kaare Vedvik didn't watch his first football game until seven years ago, and now he's fighting for a spot on the Ravens' special teams roster.

Raised in Norway, Vedvik got his first glance at the game when the Super Bowl was being broadcast on Norwegian television for the first time. 

"It seemed like a really, really interesting sport," Vedvik said via The Baltimore Sun. "It was a sport I was never able to try growing up. I loved any sport that was fun, and football seemed really, really fun."

Fun enough to get the competitive soccer player to be an exchange student in the United States during his junior year of high school to test out the game of football. Vedvik returned to Norway for his senior year but impressed college recruiters enough at a Kohl's Kicking Camp in Texas that he was eventually recruited to play at Marshall University in West Virginia.

Staying in Norway would have meant giving up on sports entirely as school becomes more difficult and sports are no longer offered. Vedvik wasn't ready for that.

While at Marshall, Vedvik played in 38 games in four years as both a punter and kicker. He punted 59 times for 2,597 yards — averaging 44 yards — with 26 of them inside the 20-yard line. Vedvik once punted a 92-yarder, making it the seventh-longest punt in FBS history and the longest in 45 years. He ranked in the Top 10 for fewest punt return yards and averaged 63.6 yards-per-kickoff. 

After a private workout with Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg, Vedvik became one of 14 Ravens undrafted free agents and has impressed thus far hitting 70 and 67-yard field goals in training camp practices. And in Thursday's preseason game vs. the Rams, Vedvik hit a 56-yard field goal.

"Learning how to kick field goals, the biggest thing for me was to stop swiping across and trying to kick a straighter ball," Vedcik said. "That’s the biggest difference: In soccer, you’re trying to curve balls around a defender."

While Vedvik's chances of dethroning the most accurate kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker and 12-year veteran punter Sam Koch are slim, he could very well make an impact elsewhere. 

“The guys who are able to do that, they’re just good athletes in general, and Kaare is a good athlete,” Tucker said of the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Norwegian. “He hasn’t played a lot of football. He has plenty of ability.”

“When he came in, he’s got such a strong leg," Koch added. "You’ve got to have a strong leg in order to get looked at. He’s got a lot of talent. It’s one of those things — bringing him in, honing his skills and seeing what he can do from here.”

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

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What we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' 33-7 win vs. the Los Angeles Rams

The Ravens returned to M&T Bank Stadium for their second game on the 2018 NFL preseason schedule and gave us a lot of reasons to be excited.

Joe Flacco and his new core of receivers only needed one drive to show off, Lamar Jackson put his speed on display and Robert Griffin III gave Breshad Perriman a much-needed confidence boost.

Here's what we learned from their 33-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

1. First teamers make it count

It took Joe Flacco and the first-team offense all of 4 minutes and 46 seconds to get themselves on the board. During the 10-play, 70-yard drive, Flacco connected with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, Javorius Allen, John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and finally, Patrick Ricard for a six-yard touchdown. During the impressive drive, Flacco showed his own mobility by getting out of the pocket for a three-yard gain and a classic Flacco slide. 

Flacco connecting with three of his newest receivers is what we've been waiting to see all offseason. Even though it was just one preseason drive, it's a step in the right direction after the Ravens' 2017 offense ranked 29th in the league in passing. 

"Listen, our guys are really showing up," Flacco said at halftime. "We've had a great camp, and it was good to come out here and see it carry over into a game."

"I think once the regular season starts, this isn't going to mean anything," said Flacco postgame. "But what it does for our confidence as a group, our confidence as a team, that will carry us pretty far into the season."

2. A lot of room to grow for Lamar Jackson

Jackson followed up the Ravens' successful first drive with one of his own. The rookie hit Chris Moore for a 36-yard gain before putting his footwork on display faking out several Rams defenders en route to a 9-yard touchdown run. 

While he made improvements from his Hall of Fame Game appearance, Jackson showed he still has a lot to learn, finishing the night 7-18 for 119 yards. With two preseason games under his belt, Jackson received high praise from his head coach John Harbaugh and Flacco on which he carries himself. 

"He does seem poised for a rookie," coach John Harbaugh said. "Even on the sideline, he may not know everything ... but he comes off the field and knows exactly what he did. I think he's really going to continue to blossom for that reason. He handles situations very well."

Flacco followed up on Harbaugh's comments by calling his touchdown run "pretty impressive" and said it's been good getting to talk to him on the sideline and that "he's a confident young kid... [that's been] handling himself really well."


3. A much-needed confidence boost for Perriman

The Ravens showed their former first-round pick they still have faith in him after picking up his $649K roster bonus included in the final year of his rookie contract earlier this offseason.

During last week's Hall of Fame Game, Perriman dropped a pass from RGIII that turned into an interception. However, the duo redeemed themselves against the Rams when Griffin III threw a 32-yard bomb to the back left corner of the end zone to Perriman. 

A smiling Perriman could be found in the Ravens' locker room after the win saying the play was "definitely a confidence boost" and is just thankful to finally be healthy during the preseason for pretty much the first time in his career. 

He will have to continue to fight for his spot on the 53-man roster with the additions of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown. 

4. Williams continues to be a threat

The 2017 third-round pick followed up his strong performance at the Hall of Fame Game – where he had a total of 41 pass-rushing snaps resulting in six hurries, one QB hit and a pass rush productivity of 17.1 according to Pro Football Focus – with another stellar performance.

During Thursday's matchup, the edge rusher out of Alabama had multiple hurries and a strip sack in the third for the first sack of the preseason.

Williams was following in the footsteps of the Ravens' first-team defense who finished their opening drive with a sack from Matthew Judon on third down to force the punt and an interception in the second from Maurice Canady. 

Ravens vs. Rams Notes

— The competition at right tackle between James Hurst and Orlando Brown Jr. is heating up. Brown Jr. played into the third quarter Thursday after getting in 60 snaps during the Hall of Fame Game. Quarterback Joe Flacco praised the third-round pick saying, "You can't ignore the fact that he's got the ability. He's just so big. He swallows people up. He has the natural ability to play that position and be a really good football player, so it's just exciting to see." 

— The Ravens got two W's last night when John Harbaugh quoted THE Michael Scott when asked about avoiding the injury bug during the preseason. Harbaugh said, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious." Classic. 

— While the preseason record does not matter whatsoever, the Ravens haven't lost a preseason game since Sept. 3, 2015. They now have ten days until they head to Indianapolis to face the Colts. 

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