PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Ravens punter Sam Koch wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl roster Tuesday, but he’s still going to Hawaii.
Kicker Billy Cundiff, who is headed to his first Pro Bowl, told his holder/punter that he would take Koch and his wife as guests with them to Hawaii – as long as the Ravens aren’t in the Super Bowl.
“That’s the good news,” Koch said with a laugh.
Koch leads a list of three Ravens who are first alternates for the NFL all-star game, along with guard Ben Grubbs and fullback Le’Ron McClain.
According to ESPN blogger James Walker, Koch was the “biggest miss” in the AFC North. On Wednesday, the players themselves spoke out.
Koch lost out to Oakland’s Shane Lechler, who is going to his fourth straight and sixth overall all-star game. The big-booted Lechler is second in the NFL with a 47.0 punt average, his lowest since 2006.
Koch is second in the NFL in punts inside the 20-yard line (37), trailing only the New York Jets’ Steve Weatherford. Koch is seventh in net average and 18th in average distance, but both stats are affected by field position.
The Ravens’ fifth-year punter has been a master at pinning opponents deep and at directional punting (pinning opponents near the sideline). Koch won the fan vote, but players and coaches determine the other two-thirds.
“[Lechler's] deserving of it,” Koch said. “It’s hard to beat out a great punter. He’s got great numbers. I wish we could be there, me and Billy both, but the good thing is Billy’s going to be taking me.”
McClain, who said he was looking forward to his third-straight Pro Bowl selection, was a bit more upset.
McClain was beat out by Pro Bowl first-timer and nine-year veteran Vonta Leach of the Houston Texans. Leach paved the way for the NFL’s leading rusher and Pro Bowl starting running back Arian Foster. McClain was leading the fan vote with just days to go.
“All props to Leach,” McClain said. “I’m just so hard on myself. I feel like I’m supposed to be in there, hands down. I think it’s been my best year blocking-wise. Me not touching the ball like I’d like to, that’s another thing.
“But I’m good with it. It’s something to build on. I’m trying to get to Dallas, so hopefully I wouldn’t have been playing in it anyway.”
Grubbs is a first alternate for the second straight season. San Diego’s Kris Dielman and New England’s Logan Mankins (who missed the first eight weeks of the season due to contract squabbles) are the two starters. Eleven-year veteran Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs also made the team.
Grubbs, 26, said he felt he played better this year than last and cut down on negative plays. He felt one game that perhaps hurt his case was in Atlanta on nationally-televised Thursday Night Football.
“Maybe that was the difference-maker, I don’t know,” Grubbs said. “In the NFL you have to be consistent each week.
“The only thing I can control is how I play and that’s what I try to control. The Pro Bowl, you never know with that. I don’t try to put too much emphasis on it. My job is just to show up every day and go to work.”
Grubbs joked that he would consider a pregame introduction dance in order to get his name out there more – if a reporter came up with the routine.
“A lot of people don’t know me,” he said. “I’m an offensive lineman, I’m not really on T.V., I don’t have any commercials, so I can’t promote myself. I really try to focus on my play and hopefully my play speaks for itself.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was disappointed for a lot of his players and that only five (LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed, DT Haloti Ngata, OLB Terrell Suggs and Cundiff) made it. He mentioned wide receiver Derrick Mason as one snub.
“I don’t understand why Derrick Mason doesn’t make the Pro Bowl more,” Harbaugh said. “He’s the best route runner in the National Football League.”
Mason, who last went to a Pro Bowl in 2003, said he stopped worrying about being left out “eight, seven, six years ago.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco and tackle Michael Oher were third alternates. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Dawan Landry and running back Ray Rice were fourth alternates.