Pin 'em deep
Punter Richardson gets kick out of key Super Bowl role
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- If Super Bowl XXXV lives up to its billing as a defensive struggle, the result could be determined by field position and the kicking game.
That means Kyle Richardson could be just as important to the Baltimore Ravens as quarterback Trent Dilfer and linebacker Ray Lewis. Richardson not only handles the punting for Baltimore, but also is the holder for placekicker Matt Stover.
And, if Stover gets injured, Richardson will be required to take care of kickoffs, field goals and conversions. That's just one more item to occupy his mind during the busy week ahead.
"Yeah, but at least I don't have to worry about tickets anymore," he quipped. "I needed 20, got 15, and that's the way it is."
Richardson, who set an NFL record last season with 39 punts inside the 20, had 35 such kicks this time. Because the stingy Baltimore defense rarely allowed lengthy drives and the conservative offense rarely did much marching of its own, Richardson became one of the Ravens' key players.
"I've been a big part of the field-position game, and it should be the same thing in the Super Bowl," he said. "Obviously, when I get the opportunity to pin them deep, I've got to do it."
In the Ravens' three playoff games, 10 of Richardson's 23 punts have been downed inside the 20, with just three touchbacks. He's also booted a 66-yarder, but had two punts blocked against Tennessee.
Baltimore head coach Brian Billick attributed both blocks to poor protection.
"We're beyond that now," Richardson said.
Richardson's career has also carried him beyond his wildest expectations. A walk-on with Arkansas State, he was undrafted out of college and in 1996 began his professional career with the Rhein Fire of the World League.
He played with the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks in 1997 before signing with the Ravens as a free agent in March of 1998. Although he was given little chance to make the team, Richardson beat out veteran Greg Montgomery and has since established himself as one of the league's best punters.
But his importance to the Ravens extends beyond his right foot. As the holder for Stover, Montgomery has taken thousands of snaps this season, each time securing the ball, placing it on the ground and spinning the laces toward the goalpost.
In the movie Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, a Jim Carrey comedy, the kicker blames his holder for a missed a field goal in the closing seconds of the Super Bowl.
"Yep, the guy had the laces out. You had to ask me about that?" Richardson said with a grin. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind.
"I'm sure everybody in this situation, the holder in the Super Bowl, has thought about it. It's funny, but hopefully I'm not going to let that happen."
The Ravens went through a pair of long-snappers this year, and Richardson didn't miss a beat. As far as Stover is concerned, there's no one better at the job.
"Judging by the fact that I kicked 35 of 39 field goals, I would say we worked together well," Stover said. "I have complete trust in him. You know he's going to get it done."