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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

NEW ORLEANS (AP) No one selected Justin Tucker in the 2012 NFL draft, so he had to wait until late May before the Baltimore Ravens extended an invitation to the former Texas kicker to join them at training camp.

Tucker then had to beat out veteran Billy Cundiff, who scored 122 points one season earlier.

Although Cundiff missed a short field-goal try in the 2011 AFC championship game, he was the odds-on favorite to retain his job. As the saying goes, there's no substitute for experience.

Evidently not.

Tucker beat out Cundiff in a competition that lasted deep into the summer, and now the rookie will be kicking in the Super Bowl for Baltimore on Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

Who'd have thought it?

``I definitely did,'' Tucker said. ``In this whole season, dating back to last year when I was just out of school, it's been kind of a whirlwind. But it's nothing we can't handle. I've never really thought like a rookie because I can't afford to at my position.''

Tucker was one of the three rookie kickers in the NFL this season. Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings and Greg Zuerlein of St. Louis were both drafted in the sixth round.

And here's Tucker, in the Super Bowl.

``(Special teams coach) Jerry Rosburg did a great job of finding Justin Tucker,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He wasn't a highly ranked kicker. He wasn't one of the top guys coming out on all the pre-rankings and those kind of things. Jerry did a tremendous job of evaluating Justin. He saw talent; he saw a gifted guy, went down there and worked him out, loved his personality. He felt like with a few adjustments technique-wise he could become really consistent.''

It didn't take long for Harbaugh to realize Tucker had the potential to excel.

``The first time I liked him was the very first kick,'' Harbaugh said. ``Standing behind him, hearing the ball come off his foot, and seeing how straight it tracked, you could tell that he's just a really talented guy. When we finally decided to make him the kicker, it was really right at the end. Billy Cundiff and he had a really great battle. Both those guys kicked incredibly well. We just felt like at the end, kind of a gut decision, that Tuck would be our guy.''

Tucker went 30 for 33 on field-goal tries during the regular season, including four of 50 yards or longer - a franchise record. He kicked three game-winning field goals, including a 47-yarder in the second overtime at Denver to thrust the Ravens into the AFC title game.

Now he's in the biggest game of his life, and showing not the least bit of concern. Heck, if he can put it through the uprights with the game on the line in chilly Denver, then kicking in the Superdome should be a snap.

``The Superdome is unique in and of itself,'' Tucker said. ``We had a chance to go kick a little bit. It's nice to more or less take the elements out of the game and just focus on hitting a straight ball.''

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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USA Today Sports Images

Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens spoiled Andrew Luck's Indianapolis homecoming.

They picked him off before allowing a completion, and Terrell Suggs nearly chopped the ball out of Luck's hands on a sack. The Ravens then secured a 20-19 preseason win over the Colts by stopping a late 2-point conversion run.

Luck was just OK in his first home start since Jan. 1, 2017. But he did receive a roaring ovation from the crowd when he took the field, led the Colts to one score and apparently emerged unscathed after going down twice on sacks.

"Not too sharp, certainly red-zone turnovers are a negative, missed a couple of throws I'd like to hit," he said. "And I didn't feel like we, as an offense, got into any semblance of a sustained rhythm."

Expectations were high following a solid start in Seattle.

This time, the Colts (1-1) looked sloppy.

Luck missed his first three throws, the third winding up in the hands of Ravens safety Anthony Levine Jr. Luck rebounded to finish 6 of 13 for 50 yards and set up 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a 57-yard field before leaving in the second quarter.

If Luck had his way, he might have played longer. But first-year coach Frank Reich wasn't taking any chances with Luck's surgically repaired arm.

"We just never found a rhythm for him and some of his balls were not his best balls," he said. "But I still have a lot of confidence we're headed in the right direction."

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked better.

Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Jackson was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and a TD and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

Indy still had a chance at the end after Tarell Basham recovered a fumble at the Ravens 9. Five plays later, Phillip Walker threw a 9-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left. But the Ravens (3-0) stopped Walker on the 2-point try, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

"Happy to get the win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of things that weren't winning football, especially in the second half."

The Ravens made it tough on Indy all night.

They stopped Indy twice in the red zone and nearly had a third when Jordan Wilkins fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it bounced right into the hands of receiver Chester Rogers.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown on a 7-yard score, and Jackson's masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half ended with Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

When Colts rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.

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Joe Flacco not at all concerned with Jalen Ramsey's 'he sucks' comment

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Joe Flacco not at all concerned with Jalen Ramsey's 'he sucks' comment

After spending 10 years in the National Football League, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been called just about everything.

His "eliteness" has been in question ever since winning the Super Bowl during the 2012-13 season, and while Flacco is known for his "cool as a cucumber" demeanor, he still hears all the noise.

In an interview with GQ, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey gave an uncensored review on some of the league's top players. When asked what he thinks of Flacco, Ramsey responded with "And just being honest about it, [Joe] Flacco sucks. I played him two years in a row. He sucks."

Just one of several QBs Ramsey took a shot at, Flacco will be adding his comment to the laundry list of opinions.

“I don’t really have much of a comment,” Flacco said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t really care. There’s plenty of people out there saying things. Just add one more to the list. No big deal.”

After finishing the 2017 season with 3,141 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, there were a lot of opinions surrounding Flacco's future with the team. Those opinions ramped up when the Ravens traded up in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

But Flacco has begun quieting those doubters with what has been his strongest and healthiest training camp in years. And with Jackson still adjusting to NFL style of play, the 2018 season is Flacco's time to prove he's still got it.

While Ramsey isn't too high on Flacco, the All-Pro cornerback foresees a successful career for Jackson.

"I would've picked [Lamar Jackson] earlier than 32," Ramsey said. "I think he's gonna do a good job. Especially with the [Baltimore Ravens'] offensive coordinator—he likes running quarterbacks, likes that read option."

Among other QBs Ramsey sounded off on was Bills first-round draft pick Josh Allen, who he called "trash," said Ben Roethlisberger is "decent at best" and that Jared Goff is "average to above average."

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