Cundiff ready to get his kicks
CLEVELAND – There’s no truth to the rumor that the Browns sent out an in-office memo asking all employees to cross their fingers when kicker Billy Cundiff was signed to a contract.
Actually, that might have been a wise move considering the tightrope the Browns are walking by not re-signing Phil Dawson and waiting until five days before the season opener against the Miami Dolphins to add Cundiff, who’s best known for missing a 32-yard kick that could have sent the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl in the 2011 season.
“I’m very comfortable (with Cundiff),” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Obviously he had a good workout. He’s played and knows the division. He’s played here. He kicked well in the preseason (for the Jets). He’s outstanding as a kick-off guy, and he’s been in the Pro Bowl.
“He’s a resilient guy. He’s on our football team and I have the utmost trust in him.”
Cundiff prevailed in a two-man competition with Giorgio Tavecchio on Tuesday. The tryouts were held outside at the team’s Berea practice facility in a strong wind. Chudzinski plans to have Cundiff practice at First Energy Stadium prior to Sunday’s game.
Cundiff is technically the Browns’ third choice to replace Dawson, who’s the team’s career leader in field goals (305) and the second-leading career scorer (1,271). Rookie Brandon Bogotay and veteran Shayne Graham competed in training camp. Bogotay was waived and Graham had his contract terminated, leaving the Browns without a kicker for three days.
Cundiff has one Pro Bowl appearance to his credit (2011 with the Ravens) during an 11-year career that includes stops with 13 teams. He also brings a recent history of failures, most notably the miss in the AFC Championship game against New England that would have sent the game into overtime. The Patriots won the game, 23-20.
Not much has gone right for Cundiff since that miss. The Ravens waived him during training camp last year. He spent a few weeks with the Washington Redskins, who waived him in October.
The San Francisco 49ers, who signed Dawson earlier this year, signed and then cut Cundiff last January. He was with the Jets in camp this year but was waived after losing a competition with Nick Folk.
“That’s a good way to put it; that nothing got back on track,” Cundiff said of his post-Ravens career. “Obviously things didn’t work out the way I wanted to in the AFC Championship game, but there are a lot of things you can learn from that.”
Cundiff knew the Dawson question was on its way the moment he stood in front of reporters. The standard set by Dawson looms large, not only because of his excellence but also because there were few offensive stars fans could cling to during his 14-year run in Cleveland.
“Phil and I go way back from my time here in 2009,” said Cundiff, who replaced an injured Dawson for part of that season. “He’s done a lot of great things on the field. Similar situation I had in Baltimore. Matt Stover had been there forever.
“I think it’s a good thing to come in and play for a guy that’s played at such a high level. You have to bring your game up. Around the league, the way things are going anyway, the expectations for you rise regardless of which team you’re at.”
Cundiff has experience at First Energy Stadium from his short tenure here in 2009 and twice-a-year visits during three seasons in Baltimore.
“I’ve played here late in the season and early in the season, so I’ve seen it both ways,” he said. “You can get a great Midwest fall, if you’re lucky, or you can get a harsh winter.”
The weather rarely bothered Dawson.