Koch Keeps His Focus On That 10-yard Line



August 21, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens' Sam Koch has succeeded in tough situations before, pinning teams inside the 10-yard line unlike any other punter in the NFL.

But the pressure will be heightened for him personally this season. Koch is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season and could become one of the highest-paid punters if he repeats last season's breakthrough performance.

Asked whether he thinks about free agency, Koch didn't seem concerned that it would be a distraction.

"It's kind of fun to think about it," he said. "I am focused on doing what my job is right now. I want to go out there and help out the team as much as I can. After that, we'll determine what happens. I love playing here."

The Ravens recognized Koch's value this offseason when they tendered the restricted free agent a one-year, $1.54 million contract. That meant the Ravens would get a second-round draft pick as compensation if they lost him to another team.

The Ravens haven't started talks on an extension, according to Koch. The Oakland Raiders' Shane Lechler set the market for his position in February, when he became the highest-paid punter ($16 million over four years).

Koch proved to be one of the top punters in the NFL last season, when he finished fifth in the league in net average (39.9 yards) - which set a Ravens record.

But he truly stood out by placing 18 punts inside the 10-yard line, which led the NFL.

"I am just trying to make sure that everything is inside the 10-yard line to help the team out even more," he said. "It's a lot of finesse and hitting the ball properly."

Clayton not close to returning

Wide receiver Mark Clayton (hamstring injury) appeared to have his best individual workout of the week, running at full speed and making hard cuts. But it still could be some time before the Ravens see Clayton on the practice field.

"He's not close to coming back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But he's ahead of schedule."

This month, Harbaugh estimated that Clayton would miss a couple of preseason games. Clayton, who finished second on the team in receptions last season, injured his hamstring Aug. 2 and hasn't practiced since.

Kicking the can down the road

It's expected that rookie Graham Gano will kick in the first half of Monday's preseason game, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said the team hasn't decided yet.

In the preseason opener, the Ravens went with Steve Hauschka in the first half and Gano in the second. Hauschka was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts, and Gano hit one of two (missing a 28-yarder).

"I think this training camp has played out very much like we thought it would, because I think both of them have had ample opportunities and both of them have succeeded in a lot of opportunities," Rosburg said. "But they've also had some rough spots, and in my view, it's exactly what we thought it was going to be. It was going to be a great battle, and it has panned out to be exactly that."

End zone

Linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs didn't practice, but he rode a stationary bike on the sideline. Asked when Suggs would return, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said: "You know what, that's up to 'T,' but I see him running around a little bit. We're very hopeful that he'll be back very soon." ... Cornerback Samari Rolle, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, remains sidelined with a neck injury. He has seen two specialists, and there is no timetable for his return. "I feel sorry for him. I don't know what the deal is," Harbaugh said. "We're just waiting. The doctors haven't told us. I think they're playing it very safe." Harbaugh indicated that Rolle would be fine to play as long as he gets one or two weeks of practice. ... Chris Chester missed his first practice of camp with a strained calf. He has been working at right guard with the first-team offense. Marshal Yanda, the starting right guard last year before a season-ending knee injury, filled in for Chester on Thursday. Harbaugh said Chester's injury is "nothing major" but "nothing we want to mess with today." ... Tight end Todd Heap missed practice with an undisclosed injury. He has been battling lower-back problems throughout the offseason and during training camp. ... The Ravens and USA Football have invited local high school and youth football teams to attend Monday's game. It's expected that 80 youth players will take the field for the national anthem.

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