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Ravens’ Justin Tucker explains why he’s been spending more time in the weight room ahead of the 2024 season

Thanks to the new rules regarding kickoffs, things are going to change in a big way when the 2024 NFL season … well, kicks off. We could see more returns, and there will thus be more of an emphasis on actually tackling the return man, being that you don’t have to tackle when the kicker just booms the ball through the end zone.Β 

But the gunners won’t be the only ones who have increased responsibilities. The kickers themselves will now truly be the last line of defense, far behind the rest of their teammates. And one of the league’s best — Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker — is trying to bulk up as he prepares for his new reality.Β 

“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, via ESPN. “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.”

Apparently, that process is already under way. “I have put on, like, 3.8 pounds. Can you guys tell? Probably not,” Tucker joked. “But yeah, I’ll leave it at that.”

Still, Tucker wants to be out there on the kickoffs, just as he has been for years.Β 

“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.”

Tucker has made eight tackles to date in his career, including two last season. He’s been one of the game’s best kickers ever since he debuted all the way back in 2012, but he obviously hasn’t had to deal with all that many returns: 64.2% of his career kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks, and he’s had a few seasons over 70%. But with with the new rules encouraging more returns, it might add another aspect of the game to his list of responsibilities. Β 

“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.”

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Author: Jared Dubin
June 7, 2024 | 1:00 pm

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