Justin Tucker thrives with some tough love and a Wolfpack

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Last week, 11 NFL kickers missed field goals or extra points. There were 17 total failed kicks.

In what feels like an all-time bad time for kickers, the Baltimore Ravens should have an increased appreciation for Justin Tucker, right?

"You guys are going to make me talk about Justin?" quarterback Joe Flacco asked with a smile. "He doesn’t need any of that."

Tucker has made more field goals than anyone else since entering the NFL in 2012. He has converted on his last 22 attempts, including a 55-yarder a week ago in Cincinnati.

Still, the most accurate kicker in NFL history apparently also ranks atop the league in tough love.

"I have to give him a compliment?" repeated linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has been known to scream expletives at Tucker while he kicks in training camp. "We love ‘Tuck,’ OK? We’re glad he’s consistent, but he knows what we’re going to do to him if he starts to be inconsistent."

There has never been any worries about Tucker's consistency. He has missed a total of 22 field goals and no extra points in his seven-year NFL career.

Tucker's success stems from him thriving under pressure. He strives to keep an even keel through the swift emotional swings of his job.

For Tucker, his 90.3 percent conversion rate is not a reflection of him. It's more about his Wolfpack, the "The Hangover"-inspired name of Tucker, holder Sam Koch and long-snapper Morgan Cox.

“The ball basically kicks itself with Morgan throwing back pretty consistent, 12-o’clock laces, and Sam giving me quick spots,” Tucker said. “That helps me, and in turn, it helps our team.”

When asked a question about Tucker, coach John Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg immediately bring up Koch and Cox. Together for the past seven years, they've refined their operations down to the one-hundredth of a second of what the timing should look like, the rotations of the ball and what it takes to get the laces out.

This tandem has been around so long that no punches are pulled when it comes to being the best at their jobs.

"I think it lends itself being able to tell each other things that are hard things that sometimes we don’t necessarily want to hear," Cox said. "We know that because we’ve been together for so long that we’re coming from a place that we want the other to perform at the highest of his ability."

Tucker's story is the Holy Grail for NFL teams. A tryout player, Tucker needed to earn a spot on the 90-man offseason roster in 2012.

Six years later, he is one four kickers who remain with that same team. Atlanta's Matt Bryant, Los Angeles Rams' Greg Zuerlein and New England's Stephen Gostkowski are the others.

Since being in the NFL, Tucker has watched 37 kickers lose their jobs. Of the 14 kickers drafted from 2012 to 2018, 12 have already been cut, including Cleveland's Zane Gonzalez and Minnesota's Daniel Carlson this past week.

"I want to see guys at my position do well," Tucker said. "You never wish poorly upon anybody. As a specialist, there is a duality that comes at this position. The highs can be very high. At other times, you might be stoked about making a kick and everybody else is thinking, you’re supposed to do that. That’s your job. The lows can be low as well."

Need a long field goal? He has hit the most field goals from beyond 40 yards (94) and 50 yards (34) since 2012.

Need a clutch kick? His 92.5 percent success rate in the second half and overtime is the NFL's second-best mark of all time.

Or do you simply need an extra point? Tucker is the only kicker not to miss an extra point (102-of-102) since point-after kicks were moved back in 2015.

Tucker is as close to flawless as you can get at a time when nothing seems automatic for kickers.

"I mean, come on, we all know that Justin is a great kicker, and you can’t take that position for granted," Flacco said. "They play a huge role in the outcome of these football games, and we know nobody’s going to be perfect, but Justin is definitely a big advantage."