Cundiff looking forward to making pressure kicks

November 19, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

When the Cleveland Browns signed Billy Cundiff almost two months ago, the kicker put spending time with his wife and daughter and a job at a venture capital firm in Phoenix on the back burner.

Those plans were delayed again when the Ravens signed Cundiff Wednesday, one day after waiving Steve Hauschka.

"I had actually been doing work, sitting at my computer and doing a bunch of things," Cundiff, 29, said. "I had kind of gone with the idea that I would probably be in Phoenix for a while. Then my phone rang [about 4 p.m. Eastern Standard time], and in two hours, my bags were packed and I was ready to get onto an airplane."

Cundiff's signing capped three days of turmoil, which began Monday night when Hauschka missed a 36-yard field goal and had an extra-point attempt blocked in the Ravens' 16-0 win over the Cleveland Browns. It was Hauschka's third miss in his past seven field-goal tries, and all three were hooked left from the left hash mark.

Hauschka's troubles continued to be a topic of discussion Wednesday for coach John Harbaugh, who had chosen the second-year kicker from North Carolina State over fan favorite Matt Stover.

"It's always tough," Harbaugh said. "You look around the league, and until you have that established guy - a guy that you have over the years under contract, he's with you and you know he's going to be there - this is what teams go through. So we were hoping it would work out with Steve. You'd love for the young guy you bring in to be the kicker for the next 10 years, and that's always the goal. I think we've worked hard to try to make that happen. We took it as long as we could, but this season and the next couple of games are really important. He's just not there yet for us."

Cundiff, who won the kicking job with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted rookie in 2002, beat out Mike Nugent in part because Cundiff displayed more power on kickoffs than Nugent - who had worked out for the Ravens twice in three weeks. Harbaugh said he and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg - who coached Cundiff with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 - took note of Cundiff's leg during warm-ups preceding the team's 34-3 thumping of the Browns on Sept. 27.

"Looked good on field goals. We watched him during pre-game," Harbaugh said. "He had a really good career in Dallas. I think he got hurt a little bit at one point in Dallas, but he's been a talented guy throughout his whole career. So you kind of start with that foundation of talent. That kind of means a lot. He's had success, and his career numbers look pretty good. We'll just see how it goes. There's no way to accurately foresee what's going to happen, but he's a veteran kicker who's been in this situation before."

In six seasons in the NFL, Cundiff made 66 of 89 field goals (74.2 percent) and 104 of 105 extra points (99.0). He connected on all six of his field goals with the Browns this season but was released more than two weeks ago when Phil Dawson's pulled right calf muscle improved.

Cundiff said he understands the expectations he will face.

"I think in the NFL, it's a replacement business," he said. "You just understand that no matter where you go - whether the guy did really well before you or the guy struggled a little bit - your job doesn't change. You're brought in here to make field goals, and if you don't, you're shown the door. So I know that my objective is to come out and provide the team some stability, make some kicks, and hopefully help the team win. That's not going to change."

Cundiff joins the team in the unenviable position of satisfying a Ravens fan base still unhappy with the franchise's decision not to re-sign Stover. Coincidentally, Stover, now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, will be on the opposing sideline at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

While cognizant of Stover's list of achievements with the Ravens - Cundiff said former Ravens punter Dave Zastudil, now with the Browns, briefed him on Stover's history - Cundiff said he is looking forward to matching kick for kick with Stover.

"He did a lot of really good things," Cundiff said. "To be quite honest with you, there are a lot of guys around the league that have done very similar things and the guy that comes in after them, they always have the same thing to deal with. So I think it's good, because if you have the bar set really high, you obviously have got to raise your game to make sure you meet that. If you're not willing to accept that challenge, then you're in the wrong business. This is a very pressure-driven business, and you've got to enjoy it."

Cundiff's career stats
FGXPYr. Team M A Pct. M A Pct'09 Browns 6 6 100.0 4 4 100'06 Saints 0 1 0.0 0 0 0.0'05 Cowboys 5 8 62.5 14 14 100'04 Cowboys 20 26 76.9 31 31 100'03 Cowboys 23 29 79.3 30 31 96.8'02Cowboys 12 19 63.2 25 25 100

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