Cundiff: Real Work Starts Now

The Ravens waived Shayne Graham and will hitch their wagon to Billy Cundiff.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Saturday, September 4th, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

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Winning the battle for Ravens kicker over Shayne Graham, Billy Cundiff is happy for the opportunity to stick with his ninth NFL team.

Now, the challenge for Cundiff is to support the Ravens’ investment.

“It’s validation, first and foremost of what I’ve done in the offseason, training camp and the preseason,” said Cundiff from his home in Phoenix, packing for a flight to Baltimore on Saturday.  “I went out there literally taking every kick one at a time. That approach served me well.

“I didn’t worry about how Shayne was doing and worried about what I need to do to be my best. On one level, I won the competition and it’s exciting.  On the next level, it’s only the beginning.”

The fact that the Ravens waited until the last minute to declare a kicker shows how stiff the competition was.

Cundiff nailed all three of his field goal attempts in the preseason and was consistently deep on his kickoffs. Graham did miss one field goal from 50 yards, but was also strong on kickoffs.

In training camp, both kickers hit over 80 percent of their field goals during open practice sessions. Cundiff was just a little better.

“We’ve talked about this the entire preseason: both Billy and Shayne rose to the occasion and performed at high levels,” said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh.  ”We know Shayne will kick in the league, but we feel very good about the decision to go with Billy.”

Graham carried a stacked resume when he was signed in early June.  The former Cincinnati Bengal is the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history, connecting on 85.2 percent of his field goals over nine seasons.

But Cundiff had a familiarity with the Ravens organization.  He played seven games in 2009 and hit 12 of 17 attempts.  Cundiff also spent a ton of time at the Ravens’ offseason conditioning program, commuting back home to his wife and two children in Arizona on the weekends.

“It’s a little easier to have success when you’ve spent the entire offseason with a team,” said Cundiff, who also made a successful transition to new long snapper Morgan Cox in camp.  ”You can get that rhythm down and get the end result you’re looking for.”

Just because he won the job doesn’t mean Cundiff is resting easy.  At a position under constant upheaval in this league, Cundiff cannot take any kick lightly.

“We haven’t played a regular season game,” said Cundiff.  ”I’m excited about kicking for this football team.  It’s been a long journey, but the real work starts from here.”

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