Hoping for hang time Ravens: Kyle Richardson, who is battling veteran Greg Montgomery for the team's punting job, had cameo appearances with two NFL teams last season. Now, he's trying to show the Ravens he belongs.

August 22, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

Punter Kyle Richardson knows how important the final two preseason games are for him. His performance in them will determine if he opens the season as a member of the Ravens.

Richardson is in a battle for the starting punter's job with incumbent and 10-year veteran Greg Montgomery. It's Richardson's task to try to knock off Montgomery, who has the second-highest punt average among active NFL players, but was inconsistent last season.

"I'm not going to approach [the final two preseason games] any different," Richardson said. "It's going to be the same game plan and the same mental attitude that has gotten me this far. I can't change anything at this point."

Coach Ted Marchibroda pointed this week to the punter battle as one of the closest in camp and he said it will go down to the wire.

"I think we are going to take that one to the last week of the preseason," Marchibroda said. "Right now I think it's too hard to tell."

Marchibroda also said that Richardson will punt in the first half in Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Richardson has had three punts for a 44.7-yard average in the two preseason games. Montgomery is averaging 47.5 yards per punt.

"Kyle is doing a good job," special teams coach Scott O'Brien said. "Him and Greg are having a very good competition. In another week, I think we'll have better idea. It will definitely be a difficult decision, to go with experience or youth."

Just a few years ago, Richardson found himself in a very different situation. After four years as a punter at Arkansas State, left in 1995 with the most punts and yards in school history and was third in school history in career punting average (33.8). It wasn't enough to win an NFL job.

Richardson went to Florida and worked part-time in a gym, but continued to work on his kicking, spending time with Doug hTC Blevins, the kicking coach for the Miami Dolphins. He still kept alive his dream to be an NFL punter.

"I didn't really have a great senior year, but I always thought of myself as a good athlete," Richardson said. "When I worked out with Doug, he helped me concentrate on techniques and he really helped me fine-tune my game. After that, I really thought I could make it in the NFL," Richardson said.

Richardson only began punting his senior year at Farmington (Mo.) High. He almost ditched punting altogether after high school, when he received a scholarship to play basketball at a junior college. But he got an opportunity to walk on at Arkansas State and won the job.

In 1996, Richardson took his game overseas to the World League, hoping to get exposure and eventually sign with an NFL team. Playing for the Rhein Fire, Richardson was second in the league with a 44.2-yard punting average, which caught the attention of the Dolphins.

Richardson was signed by the Dolphins just four days before making his NFL debut on Sept. 7, 1997. Filling in for starter John Kidd, he punted three times and was released the next day. For the rest of the season, Richardson shuffled on and off the Dolphins roster and then the Seahawks roster, mostly on a short-term basis, filling in for injured starters. He ended last season with a 42.3-yard average, but was without a job until the Ravens signed him in March.

"I think I've done a good job," Richardson said. "I think I've showed the Ravens my ability. Right now I am not thinking too far ahead."

Richardson still thinks of his competition with Montgomery, but he tries to zone it out as much as possible.

"I think we've both been handling [the competition] well," Richardson said. "I have an understanding of the situation at hand and I think that we've developed a mutual respect. I think we try not to worry about each other. Only I can prove what I can do. But we both know that there are only 30 jobs out there."

Next for Ravens

Who: Philadelphia Eagles

When: Monday, 7: 30 p.m.

Where: Ravens stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Pub Date: 8/22/98

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