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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker excels in rookie year

NEW ORLEANS (AP) No one selected Justin Tucker in the 2012 NFL draft, so he had to wait until late May before the Baltimore Ravens extended an invitation to the former Texas kicker to join them at training camp.

Tucker then had to beat out veteran Billy Cundiff, who scored 122 points one season earlier.

Although Cundiff missed a short field-goal try in the 2011 AFC championship game, he was the odds-on favorite to retain his job. As the saying goes, there's no substitute for experience.

Evidently not.

Tucker beat out Cundiff in a competition that lasted deep into the summer, and now the rookie will be kicking in the Super Bowl for Baltimore on Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

Who'd have thought it?

``I definitely did,'' Tucker said. ``In this whole season, dating back to last year when I was just out of school, it's been kind of a whirlwind. But it's nothing we can't handle. I've never really thought like a rookie because I can't afford to at my position.''

Tucker was one of the three rookie kickers in the NFL this season. Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings and Greg Zuerlein of St. Louis were both drafted in the sixth round.

And here's Tucker, in the Super Bowl.

``(Special teams coach) Jerry Rosburg did a great job of finding Justin Tucker,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``He wasn't a highly ranked kicker. He wasn't one of the top guys coming out on all the pre-rankings and those kind of things. Jerry did a tremendous job of evaluating Justin. He saw talent; he saw a gifted guy, went down there and worked him out, loved his personality. He felt like with a few adjustments technique-wise he could become really consistent.''

It didn't take long for Harbaugh to realize Tucker had the potential to excel.

``The first time I liked him was the very first kick,'' Harbaugh said. ``Standing behind him, hearing the ball come off his foot, and seeing how straight it tracked, you could tell that he's just a really talented guy. When we finally decided to make him the kicker, it was really right at the end. Billy Cundiff and he had a really great battle. Both those guys kicked incredibly well. We just felt like at the end, kind of a gut decision, that Tuck would be our guy.''

Tucker went 30 for 33 on field-goal tries during the regular season, including four of 50 yards or longer - a franchise record. He kicked three game-winning field goals, including a 47-yarder in the second overtime at Denver to thrust the Ravens into the AFC title game.

Now he's in the biggest game of his life, and showing not the least bit of concern. Heck, if he can put it through the uprights with the game on the line in chilly Denver, then kicking in the Superdome should be a snap.

``The Superdome is unique in and of itself,'' Tucker said. ``We had a chance to go kick a little bit. It's nice to more or less take the elements out of the game and just focus on hitting a straight ball.''

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New commercial shows Flacco should just buy cars, not sell them

New commercial shows Flacco should just buy cars, not sell them

Fortunately for Joe Flacco, he was born with an arm meant for chucking footballs prodigious distances and a body destined to stand in an NFL pocket. That's because — if he wasn't in possession of these gifts and didn't have the work ethic to put them to good use — he may not be cut out for everyday life and a typical job.

Last year, a Pepsi and Tostitos commercial came out and showed that the Ravens quarterback was clueless when it came to party throwing. A recent Ford ad, meanwhile, is demonstrating that No. 5 should stick to purchasing vehicles as opposed to selling them.

Here's the spot in its entirety:

Trying to convince someone to buy a car because it's "like two motorcycles stuck together" is not exactly the best selling point. As the commercial concludes, letting Flacco focus on the field and the professionals take care of everything else is the most ideal use of everyone's time.

RELATED: RAVENS SHOULD CONSIDER A RUNNING BACK BY COMMITTEE APPROACH

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NFL great Jim Brown worked with league to reinstate Josh Gordon

NFL great Jim Brown worked with league to reinstate Josh Gordon

Jim Brown, one of the greatest NFL players of all time, has been actively involved in trying to rehabilitate the career of Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.

In his role as a special advisor with the team, Brown has been in contact with Gordon, who was conditionally reinstated by the NFL on Monday.

Gordon has been suspended 27 of the Browns’ last 32 games due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The league announced Monday that Gordon would still be suspended the first four games of the 2016 season, but could be reintstated Week 5.

Gordon can join the Browns when they begin training camp Thursday, and participate in team meetings and activities. If Gordon meets all of the league’s behavior requirements during his suspension, he can return in Week 5. He will miss the Ravens-Browns game Week 2 in Cleveland, but could Gordon could face the Ravens when they host the Browns in Week 10.

Gordon is an extraordinary talent, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, with 1,646 yards in just 14 games. Plenty of people, including Brown, are hoping Gordon has finally put his problems behind him.

“I’ve talked with Josh twice on the phone, and the last time I talked with him he sounded very motivated and I think he was in rehab and feeling good about it and discovering some things about himself,” Brown told Cleveland.com. “He really seemed ready to take responsibility for himself.”

Robert Griffin III and all the Browns’ quarterbacks will certainly be glad to see Gordon in camp. Ironically, Gordon’s 2016 debut could come against the Patriots in Week 5, who will also be expecting quarterback Tom Brady to return from his four-game suspension for Deflategate.

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Running back by committee system could be Ravens' best option

Running back by committee system could be Ravens' best option

A running-back-by-committee system could be the Ravens’ best option in 2016. Not only do the Ravens have ample depth at the position, but the incumbent starter, Justin Forsett, will turn 31 years old in October.

Rather than give 200-plus carries to Forsett if he wins the starting job, it might behoove the Ravens to spread the workload among Forsett, Buck Allen, rookie Kenneth Dixon and any remaining backs, whether it be Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro, or Trent Richardson.

Running back roles will begin to sort themselves out during training camp, with the first full-squad practice scheduled for Thursday. However, more NFL teams are relying on more than just one back.

During the 2012 season, 23 running backs had at least 200 carries. That number has steadily declined, from 22 backs with 200+ carries in 2013, to 17 backs in 2014, to just 15 backs last season with 200+ carries.

Forsett is just two years removed from his best NFL campaign, when he rushed for 1,266 yards on 235 carries. However, there’s no way Forsett figures to get 235 carries in 2016, and that’s a good thing for the Ravens. For Forsett to be fresh and healthy in November and December, the Ravens will have to be careful not to overwork him.

Allen had a solid rookie season and should push Forsett for the starting job. Dixon is a highly-touted rookie. West is in the best shape of his young career, while Taliaferro wants to prove he can stay healthy after an injury-plagued first two seasons.

Richardson is starting camp on the PUP list with a knee injury, so he needs to return quickly to capitalize on his long-shot opportunity. But even if the Ravens don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, they could still run the ball effectively by making the most of their depth.

RELATED: ​Can Flacco return to 'elite' status?