Ravens kicker Justin Tucker bulking up for new kickoff rules

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The NFL’s new kickoff rule has altered the workout routine for the league’s most accurate kicker.

Justin Tucker said he has noticed that XFL kickers have been involved in 25% of the tackles with the revamped kickoff play, which has led him to add a few pounds.

“This might be really surprising to a lot of you guys and a lot of my teammates because I don’t hang out in the weight room too frequently,” Tucker said after the Baltimore Ravens’ offseason practice Thursday. “Now I got to get some more shrugs, get the traps going a little bit, just to make sure I’m prepared for a little bit more contact.”

Asked whether he plans to add more muscle, Tucker said, “I have put on, like, 3.8 pounds. Can you guys tell? Probably not. But yeah, I’ll leave it at that.”

In March, NFL owners approved the massive change in kickoffs with a vote of 29-3. Under the new rule, which originated in the XFL, kickers will continue to kick from their own 35-yard line but the other 10 players on the kickoff team will line up at the receiving team’s 40-yard line, which is 5 yards from the return team. The kickers will represent the last line of defense.

Tucker, a seven-time Pro Bowl kicker, has made eight tackles in 195 games. His most recent tackle came Dec. 17, 2022.

“I don’t think [tackling is] necessarily something that is encouraged [for kickers], but it’s not discouraged either,” Tucker said. “It kind of just comes with a territory. It’s a football play. We’re all football players out there, and ultimately if a returner is beelining toward the end zone and I’m the last guy there to stop him, it is part of my job description.”

Tucker, 34, is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, converting 90.2% of his attempts (395 of 438). Since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012, he has recorded the most field goals in the NFL with 395. His 66-yard, game-winning field goal in Detroit on Sept. 26, 2021, is the longest in NFL history.

The revised kickoff rule is a new challenge for Tucker, who hasn’t practiced tackling since he was in high school. He brought up the possibility of doing some tackling drills in training camp this year.

“It’ll probably be really bad TV, but we’ll have fun doing it,” Tucker said.

According to Tucker, the Baltimore coaching staff has watched every XFL kickoff and sent some clips to Tucker for him to study. The Ravens are developing their own ideas on how to attack the play.

Last week, Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said the team is considering using safety Justin Reid as a kickoff specialist because it would add a more proven tackler.

“Hell yeah, I want to be out there,” Tucker said. “At the same time, in fairness to the idea that a safety or a linebacker or somebody that has a little bit more training as a coverage athlete, as a tackler, yeah, I think it’s totally fair to turn over every stone and see what you got. Who knows? There might be a guy that can pinpoint drop the ball off the tee on the 5-yard line and then just go down there and smoke the ball carrier. I’d like to think I would be that guy.”

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