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Cundiff hoping for another playoff shot

Cundiff hoping for another playoff shot

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) There's no questioning how badly Billy Cundiff wants another chance in the playoffs after the way last season ended.

Cundiff and the Baltimore Ravens stayed home after he missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game and New England went to the Super Bowl last season instead.

These days, Cundiff has no qualms discussing his greatest career disappointment. He hopes to soon make a new impression on the NFL's postseason - succeeding as San Francisco's starting kicker.

``You don't have to tiptoe around this. Ask what you want to ask,'' Cundiff instructed while standing at his locker before Tuesday's practice.

While coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to name Cundiff or incumbent David Akers the top guy for Saturday's NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay, Cundiff is preparing as if he will play.

Cundiff took a field trip Monday to Candlestick Park to practice in the elements off San Francisco Bay, though there was hardly any wind during his hour-long session alongside holder Andy Lee and long snapper Brian Jennings - with the supervision of special teams coach Brad Seely.

Cundiff attempted between 30 and 40 field goals and also launched some kickoffs. Come Saturday, a sellout crowd will pack the place as San Francisco (11-4-1) tries to take a step toward reaching its first Super Bowl since after the 1994 season.

``It was a fairly calm day from what I understand, and I was told not to get too used to that,'' Cundiff said. ``The conditions were pretty nice. I think (I adjusted) the best that I can after one day. Guys get used to stadiums after playing there for many years so I think I know it as well as I can with what the current situation is. ... We're trying to cram in what you would do in the offseason - April, May, June, you get a little bit of July off and then most of August - so you're taking four months and squeezing it into about three days.''

Last summer, Cundiff figured he would get another chance to change his fortunes this season with the Ravens, but they parted ways with him Aug. 26 before Cundiff landed in nearby Washington.

The Redskins then released him on Oct. 9 after he missed five of his 12 field goal attempts.

Three months later and across the country, Cundiff is playing for John Harbaugh's little brother, Jim - perhaps finally poised to get that shot for another Harbaugh. San Francisco signed him Jan. 1 after Akers struggled once again during a 27-13 victory in the regular-season finale against Arizona.

The 32-year-old Cundiff realizes joining a new team at this late stage is a ``unique'' circumstance, but he knows he will fit in as long as he goes about his business and does his job when called upon.

``You're only as much of an outsider as you allow yourself to feel,'' Cundiff said. ``For me, I feel like it's the ultimate compliment that a team that's playing in the playoffs would use a roster spot on a guy like myself. They obviously have a lot of confidence in my abilities or they wouldn't have brought me in here. I feel like that is the ultimate compliment, so I'm going to take that confidence out on the field and not really worry about the rest.''

Harbaugh has said there is a ``leader in the clubhouse,'' but hasn't said who it is. He probably won't until he absolutely has to, either, to keep the Packers guessing.

Cundiff has moved forward from how last season ended, knowing John Harbaugh trusted him to bounce back. Probably not in this very situation, however."Maybe that was a compliment that in the fact that he didn't feel like he had to talk me off the ledge or console me,'' Cundiff said. ``I was obviously disappointed, and if I wasn't disappointed I think he would have bigger concerns. But at the same time I think he knew I would pick myself up. I've been through a lot in my career and I've dealt with some strange situations, and this is maybe just another one of them. I feel the way that I approach things, I think people know that I can handle it. Maybe that's why I keep getting thrown into the fire.''

Notes: San Francisco signed LB Nate Stupar to the practice squad. ... LB Aldon Smith (shoulder) practiced in a non-contact black jersey, along with CB Tarell Brown (shoulder, knee).

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Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

Gillmore: No panic despite thinning TE ranks

When the Ravens entered training camp, tight end was considered the deepest position on the team after the signing of veteran Ben Watson and the return of Dennis Pitta from two serious hip injuries.

But now, the Ravens are staring at the prospect of having just one healthy tight end for their Week 1 game against the Bills.

Watson suffered what is believed to be a season-ending Achilles injury on the first play of the Ravens preseason game Saturday night against the Lions, and Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed) remain sidelined with injuries. Two other tight ends, Darren Waller and Nick Boyle must begin serving suspensions when the regular season starts – Waller four games and Boyle 10.

So of the top six tight ends on the depth chart, Crockett Gillmore is the only healthy one who will be on the roster for the Sept. 11 opener.

But Gillmore, who had one catch for 2 yards in the Ravens 30-9 win Saturday night, said no one is in panic mode.

MORE RAVENS: 3 OBSERVATIONS FROM FLACCO'S PRESEASON DEBUT

“This is an organization that has dealt with those kinds of things since I’ve been here, and we’ve always had guys step up,” Gillmore said.

Watson’s injury does have a painful ring of familiarity; the Ravens lost veterans Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith to season-ending Achilles injuries last year.

“It’s not like we’re sweating bullets around here,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play.”

The problem is, at least two of them – Waller and Boyle – can’t play early in the season. Pitta has been out with a broken finger sustained in a scuffle with Kamalei Correa in a stadium practice earlier this month, and Wiliams has missed the past two preseason games. Their availability for Week 1 remains uncertain.

Watson’s injury could open the door for Daniel Brown to make the team, at least until Waller’s suspension is over, depending on the progress of Pitta and Williams.

Another option might be to look to utilize fullback Kyle Juszczyk more often in a hybrid role.

 “That’s a versatile guy that can do everything,” Gillmore said.

“We’re not sweating,” Gillmore said. “We’ve got a bunch of receivers, too. We’ll make it work.”

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Ravens win preseason game vs. Lions, but lose Watson for season

Ravens win preseason game vs. Lions, but lose Watson for season

BALTIMORE – Five instant observations from the Ravens’ 30-9 preseason win over the Lions, which made the Ravens 3-0 this preseason:

1. Ben Watson’s season-ending Achilles injury made this victory hollow:

The veteran tight end was lost on the first play from scrimmage, and his season was lost before he ever played a regular season game for the Ravens. Football can be cruel.

2.  Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon’s knee injury could be another blow.

It was announced that Dixon had a sprained left knee, but he was helped off the field, and no timetable was given for his return. It would not be surprising if an MRI is forthcoming. If so, many people will be holding their breath.

MORE RAVENS: DEEPER LOOK AT FLACCO'S PRESEASON DEBUT

3. Rookie pass rusher Matt Judon looks ready to have an immediate impact.

Judon had a strip-sack on another active night. At the very least, Judon looks like could have an immediate role as a situational pass rusher.

4. Linebacker-safety Anthony Levine could be the Ravens’ most improved player.

Levine had an athletic interception, and he has made a successful transition to playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Last week, Levine picked off a pass on a two-point conversion attempt against the Colts and took it to the house. Levine’s ability to line up in multiple spots, and to make plays, could make the Ravens’ defense more versatile and less predictable.

5.  Wide receiver Jeremy Butler keeps making plays.

I know it’s preseason, and I know the Ravens are deep at wide receiver. But I think they have to keep Jeremy Butler. He had his second touchdown catch of the preseason, he can contribute on special teams, and he caught 31 passes last season. I see the Ravens keeping seven receivers - Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, and Butler.

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Three observations as post-injury Flacco returns to field in preseason debut

Three observations as post-injury Flacco returns to field in preseason debut

BALTIMORE – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played two series Saturday night against the Lions, and completed 11 of 16 passes for 94 yards before leaving the game. It was Flacco’s first game since his season-ending knee injury last November. Here are three observations from Flacco’s action:

1. The Ravens got what they wanted - they got Flacco work, and he escaped unscathed.

Flacco had talked about playing the entire half, but Ryan Mallett took over in the second quarter. Flacco had already thrown 16 passes, and his knee has not been an issue since Day 1 of training camp. After seeing what happened to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo the night before, it was hard to blame the Ravens for playing it safe.

Flacco got his first sack out of the way, and it came courtesy of an old friend. Lions tackle Haloti Ngata got credit for sacking Flacco for a one-yard loss. Flacco and Ngata were teammates with the Ravens for seven seasons. Flacco got right up, and Ngata and Flacco now have something else to laugh about, because he shrugged it off and continued to play. 

MORE RAVENS: WATSON LOST FOR SEASON

2. Flacco had good chemistry with wide receiver Mike Wallace.

He tried to hit Wallace deep on his first pass, and Wallace caught three passes for 37 yards. Wallace was one of the new weapons the Ravens acquired this offseason, and he has talked about how much he looked forward to playing with Flacco. Perhaps the Ravens will get more from Wallace than the Vikings and Dolphins did in recent years.

3. Flacco did enough to enter Week 1 feeling even more confident.

He won’t play in the preseason finale, so Flacco can prepare for Week 1 against the Bills, and he has already gotten his feet wet in game action. Mission accomplished.