Nearly seven months removed from his missed 32-yard field-goal attempt in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff is refreshed, healthy and, by his estimation, enjoying the best training camp of his NFL career, which has spanned a decade.
"I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well. I feel like my leg has a lot of pop," the 32-year-old said Saturday after the Ravens held an open practice for fans at M&T Bank Stadium. "I feel like I've improved. I feel like this year I'm coming into training camp healthy. That makes a big difference."
With the help of kicking consultant Randy Brown, Cundiff has tweaked his technique after looking back at his technical breakdowns from 2011, when he made 32 of his 42 attempts, including during the playoffs. His 75.7 field-goal percentage during the regular season ranked 28th. Cundiff battled a calf injury late last season and he was inactive for a Week 16 win over the Cleveland Browns.
During Saturday's practice, Cundiff split the uprights with eight of his nine field-goal attempts, with his only miss coming from 65 yards. He has made 46 of his 54 attempts in training camp.
But he has been pushed by rookie kicker Justin Tucker, an undrafted free agent from Texas who Cundiff said has been "lights out" throughout camp. Tucker has made 50 of his 53 attempts, and his successful 63-yard field goal Saturday spurred the competitive incumbent to attempt one from 2 yards deeper. "Back it up," Cundiff thought when Tucker nailed his long field goal.
"It's amazing, the competitiveness of these guys," said coach John Harbaugh, who has tried to replicate game-like situations in camp. "Tuck makes the 63-yarder. So Billy's like, 'Put it back to 65.' It was a great kick. Just a little bit short. So both those kicks are pretty amazing."
Even though Cundiff and the coaching staff are continuing to refine his technique as he dukes it out with the big-legged rookie, Cundiff said that his confidence rises with every successful kick.
"We're still putting out a good product. And so as things start to click, I get more confidence that I'm able to continue to get better," said Cundiff, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010. "Because that's a big thing, I think. You have to continue to improve throughout training camp."
Flacco 'really on the money'
Starting quarterback Joe Flacco has been impressive throughout the first two weeks of training camp. He has showed off his strong right arm in red-zone drills in camp, firing footballs into tight windows for scores. And fewer of his throws are hitting the turf in his fifth NFL training camp.
"He looked really, really sharp the last couple of days of practice," Harbaugh said Saturday. "He came out here and looked very sharp, but I think it wasn't quite there the way it was the past two days. A couple of drops, things like that, but Joe was really on the money. That was good to see."
Flacco completed a career-low 57.6 percent of his passes in 2011 and his 12 interceptions tied a career high. But Flacco had a 61.4 completion percentage in the season's second half. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron recently said that Flacco's accuracy throughout last season was "really outstanding."
Reid being patient with calf injury
Second-year offensive lineman Jah Reid was expected to be in a position battle at left guard or right tackle, but he hasn't practiced since sustaining a strained right calf during the mandatory minicamp in June, and then re-aggravating the injury before the start of training camp.
He said there is still no timetable for a return, but he thinks he has made "marked improvement" in rehab. With Reid and fellow tackle Bryant McKinnie (back) sidelined throughout camp, rookie Kelechi Osemele has been manning the right tackle position with the first-team offense.
"[The trainers and I are] doing everything we can in the time we're allotted," Reid said. "It's definitely frustrating. You want to go out there and compete. That's our job. But this is something that I'm going to have to be patient to deal with. I'll get my opportunity eventually."
Rainey ready to 'showcase' his talent
Rookie running back Bobby Rainey has generated buzz throughout training camp with his quick cuts and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. It also helped that Harbaugh spoke highly of the undrafted rookie free agent from Western Kentucky earlier in training camp.
"It's been going great for me. I'm still here, so that's a great sign," Rainey said.
Rainey rushed for 3,344 and 28 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Western Kentucky. He also had 36 receptions for 361 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. To stick around with the Ravens at the end of camp, he knows he has to be productive in their four preseason games
"I've got to showcase my talent if I want to make the 53-man roster," Rainey said.
End zone: Ravens players were given the day off Sunday and will be back practicing in Owings Mills on Monday.