Ravens Update

Surrounded by a phalanx of cameras with bright lights shining in his face, Billy Cundiff didn't blink

Undaunted by a horrific errant field goal in an AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots that cost the Baltimore Ravens a potential trip to the Super Bowl, Cundiff was emphatic in delivering a message.

The former Pro Bowl kicker insists that his confidence hasn't been shaken by flubbing a 32-yarder in the final minute of a bitter 23-20 defeat at Gillette Stadium that would have sent the game into overtime.

"It's as high as it's ever been," Cundiff said Wednesday following an organized team activity practice at the Ravens' training complex. "I think the situation is pretty unique. I'll learn what I can from it and keep my confidence high. "It's not something where I'm trying to avoid it. I know what happened. I don't need to be reminded of it. I think it's a learning experience." With 11 seconds remaining, Cundiff hooked what's normally a routine field goal for him. It broke a string of 11 consecutive field goals, and it marked his lone miss in the fourth quarter all season.

Rather than be haunted by his miscue, Cundiff is moving on and working on his craft following a rough season where he slumped to 28 of 37 accuracy for a 75.7 percent clip after signing a five-year, $14.7 million contract a year ago. And the defending AFC North champions haven't signed a kicker to compete with Cundiff. They brought in University of Texas rookie kicker Justin Tucker for a rookie minicamp tryout, but didn't sign him to a contract or invite him to this week's organized team activity. However, Tucker indicated that he's going to attend next week's organized team activity. Veteran kickers have been reluctant to sign with Baltimore because it's thought that Cundiff's roster status is so strong. "If anything, it shows I've got the confidence to keep going," Cundiff said. "I'm standing here. The team doesn't have anybody else here. The team believes in me.

"The coach has been really positive with me throughout the whole offseason. Management has been great. Now, it's just a matter of continuing to get better."

All of Cundiff's misses came on the road one year after making the Pro Bowl when he hit 26 of 29 field goals and established a franchise record with 44 touchbacks.

Cundiff hasn't sought out former NFL kickers who've been in his situation like Gary Anderson or Scott Nortwood.

"I wasn't looking for consoling, I wasn't looking for counseling," Cundiff said. "For me, it was one of those things where you meet it head on and move on."

Cundiff did take the step of talking with a sports psychologist, but that's been part of his mental preparation for the past five years as he battled his way into a regular job with Baltimore.

"He's not there as a shrink," Cundiff said. "He's not there to analyze my emotions. We're there to create a game plan. He was one of the guys who was a big influence on me when I was out of football. We were constantly going on what I could improve on.

"When I got back into football, I was more mentally strong and that carried into the last couple of seasons. What happened in New England is what happened in New England. You move on and it doesn't change any of my preparation." For his career, Cundiff has connected on 132 of 172 kicks for a 76.6 percent success rate. Despite the big miss in New England, Cundiff's teammates still profess confidence in his ability to deliver in the clutch.

"Billy's been an amazing kicker," special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "He was a Pro Bowl kicker. Just because he missed one field goal doesn't mean we value him any less than we did before. He's the guy everyone trusts that he's going to get the job done.

"We don't have a doubt in our mind. Billy wants to be under that kind of pressure. He wants to prove himself. He's going to do it 99 percent of the time. He got the one miss out of the way and now you're going to see a whole bunch more game-winners."

Instead of being shunned by teammates or harassed when he's around town, Cundiff has had an altogether different experience.

At a supermarket Tuesday night, Cundiff said a cashier recognized him and said the Ravens' coaches should have called timeout prior to his missed field goal against the Patriots.

"It's actually been really positive, to be perfectly honest with you," Cundiff said. "What's in the past is in the past. If you don't win the Super Bowl in this league, what you do really doesn't matter for the most part.

"You can take your stats and compare it against other people. If you're not helping your team win the big one, everybody is back to the drawing board the next year."

Ravens notebook: McKinnie getting into shape

Harbaugh not concerned about Ed Reed

Sliding to his left quickly, Bryant McKinnie beat Paul Kruger to the punch and prevented him from pressuring quarterback Joe Flacco.

It was a practiced, fluid motion that the massive Baltimore Ravens' left offensive tackle performed with relative ease during an organized team activity

As a regular participant in the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, McKinnie appears lighter on his feet and in his body. "I'm glad I'm here so I can go through this now instead of what happened last year," McKinnie said. "Last year, I felt like I was on Celebrity Fit Club."

The 6-foot-8 former Pro Bowl blocker said he's down to 358 pounds with a target goal of getting down to 345 pounds.

"He's been working really hard," Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "He has been around here most of the time. Conditioning has been a paramount priority, and he has done a good job. We'll just have to see how he does as we go forward. I think he'll do well."

A year ago, McKinnie bulked up to nearly 400 pounds during the NFL lockout and was cut by the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens signed McKinnie before the start of the regular season and he started every game, playing his way into shape.

And McKinnie pledged to general manager Ozzie Newsome in March that he would get into better shape prior to the Ravens picking up a $500,000 roster bonus. So far, he has lived up to his word. "I've been working and trying to stay active, and I didn't have much time off since we actually have an offseason," McKinnie said. "That helps out a lot. I came back here and have been participating in a big majority of what's going on here.

"When I came up here in March he said to show commitment and I'll stay committed to you. I feel like I need to take part, and it helps me." McKinnie is in town working out under the supervision of the coaching staff and strength coaches roughly four days per week. During the latter months of the NFL work stoppage last year, McKinnie said he began putting on some bad weight.

He was spending a lot of time working on his music label, keeping late hours supervising artists in the studio.

The combination of eating late at night, not eating healthy foods, and training on his own caught up with him.

"It was freestyle," McKinnie said. "I think I was good up until around this point. Then, I realized we might not be practicing. It kind of tapered off. I started getting too focused on the music side, and in the studio. You know, artists work different hours. You work at night time, you're in there, you're hungry, you're eating. You end up putting on weight by changing up your hours like that."

McKinnie is hoping to maintain his strength by not losing too much weight. And he wants to change the conversation to focus on his game, not his bulk.

"That's one thing I want to make sure I still have is the power," McKinnie said. "I don't want to be too light. At the same time, that should help me bend more, too. So more technique will come into play."

"I just want to be able to feel good. My whole career my weight was never an issue until last year. I just want to get that back under control and then move on."

REED EXPECTED TO PLAY: The Ravens fully expect star free safety Ed Reed to play football this fall, according to coach John Harbaugh. Reed indicated last week in a radio interview that he wasn't 100 percent committed for this season and had contemplated retirement, later backtracking from those remarks.

"Ed is a guy that I really trust and really care about," Harbaugh said. "I believe in him. There's been no indication that he's not going to play this year as far as I'm concerned.

"I don't worry about Ed. Ed's a mature guy. He's a superstar. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's a leader. Ed will be here. We're counting on Ed being here."

Reed acknowledged contemplating retirement during the interview, but hours later the Times was provided a quote from him where he said he planned to continue to play football.

"It's not about retirement, it's about my focus in the offseason, health, family and football," said Reed, who has battled hip, neck and shoulder injuries in recent years. "This is the time of year where players think through things. My goal is to play football in the years to come." Reed, 33, is entering the final year of a six-year, $44.2 million contract and is due a $7.2 million base salary this season. He mentioned having other priorities at this time during the offseason, including spending time with his son and family.

"What does he really mean by that?," Harbaugh said. "I think he's talking about the offseason. He's got a lot of things going on, that's what he said. He's working on personal things. I guarantee you he's training, I guarantee you that he's getting ready for the season. That's just Ed."

HIGH ATTENDANCE: The majority of the team attended the voluntary workout, including quarterback Joe Flacco, fullback Vonta Leach, wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and cornerback Lardarius Webb.

Among those not attending: unsigned franchise running back Ray Rice, who's not planning to go to practices or workouts until he gets a new contract, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Reed, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who's recuperating from Achilles tendon surgery, center Matt Birk and Cal-Poly rookie cornerback Asa Jackson. Under NFL rules, Jackson isn't allowed to attend workouts until graduation ceremonies commence at his school.

Wide receiver David Reed (anterior cruciate ligament) and cornerback Cary Williams (hip) were at practice, but didn't participate as they recover from their respective surgeries. "It's really not a problem at all," Harbaugh said of not all the players being there. "You still run practice. It's no different. The young guys are doing a great job. I'd love for every guy to be here, but it's not realistic in today's business environment.

"So, we're just moving forward, but Ray is working hard. I don't worry about Ray. Ray Rice is working hard. Both Rays are working hard. They'll be ready to go." The Ravens aren't on the verge of signing either Flacco or Rice to long-term deals. The defending AFC North champions face a July 16 NFL deadline to negotiate with Rice. Otherwise, he'll play this season under a $7.742 million franchise tag. Flacco said he hasn't been focusing on the Rice talks.

"Not too much," he said. "You hear a little bit here and there about it, but I don't really pay too much attention to anything unless I am in the building here and somebody is telling me about it. The only thing I know is his contract is up, and we should probably pay him."

BIG YEAR: Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle has reached a crossroads after his career nearly ended before it even started.

Drafted in the second round two years ago, Kindle suffered permanent hearing damage in his left ear after fracturing his skull when he fell down two flights of stairs prior to his rookie season. "Make or break year?" Kindle said. "Perhaps, always. I feel like that every year. Just because I haven't proved anything yet." Kindle played in two games last season, but didn't record any tackles or sacks. A former All-Big 12 pass rusher, Kindle is on the spot after Suggs' injury.

The Ravens want to see what he can do this year as he battles for a roster spot and playing time. "I was hungry when I was injured," Kindle said. "With the opportunity to get out on the field, of course it's different. My thing is, the hunger's going to be there. It's now what I do from now until then. I just have to make sure I'm focused, stay on top of my plays and perform well in practice. That's what going to get me on the field."

Kindle acknowledged that the hearing problem is an issue, one that won't improve. Other than the hearing, he said everything else is fine.

He said he's unsure how crowd noise will impact his game. Hand signals help him pick up the calls. "The hearing hasn't changed but I'm more acclimated to everything now," Kindle said. "We're working on something to help deal with that on the field, but it's in the makings right now.

"I've been recovered for a year now but I'm great now. I was good all of last year, but I had to take precaution coming in. This year, I got my guns blazing. It's no holds barred. Whatever they put on the bar I'm lifting it."

Away from football, Kindle maintains a quiet lifestyle after being convicted of driving under the influence following a December 2010 arrest. Kindle said he doesn't have a car and lives in a hotel, where he spends his time taking naps, studying his playbook, eating, watching the NBA playoffs and taking in "Family Guy."

"Stronger, smarter, wiser and a better decision maker," Kindle said. ""I don't put myself in bad situations. I just choose not to, especially with the chance of playing being a lot greater this year."

LINEBACKER ALIGNMENT: For now, the Ravens are primarily having Paul Kruger line up at Suggs' rush outside linebacker spot. Kruger had 5 1/2 sacks last season in a reserve role.

"That's the spot side linebacker. "It's early to say what will happen, but this is what we're doing now. I'm told where I'm going to line up and I do it. "They feel more comfortable with me there, and that's where I've been playing. I'm learning both. They can always switch us around." Rookie second-round pick Courtney Upshaw is mostly playing at Jarret Johnson's vacated outside linebacker position on the strongside. "It's coming easier to me," Upshaw said. "It's been a great experience. I come in and be the student. I'm getting to the point where I'm kind of comfortable with it, but I still have to keep improving."

QUICK HIT: Rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele took the majority of the first-string repetitions at left guard with Jah Reid rotating in at tackle. Reid indicated that he ran with the first-team offense at left guard on Tuesday, though.

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