OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In front of a packed team auditorium, the Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch announced his retirement Thursday at a tear-filled press conference, which ended the career of the longest-serving player in franchise history.
Koch, 39, will remain with the Ravens as a special teams consultant this season and mentor to the Penn State punter Jordan Stoutwho was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round 19 days ago.
A 16-year veteran, Koch played a team-best 256 games in Baltimore, 27 more than any other Ravens player. The only active player with longer current service with his team is the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgersaccording to the Elias Sports Office.
Koch said he had no doubts he could still pitch in the league, but acknowledged he was at peace with his decision. He knew his run was coming to an end before the start of day three of the draft, when Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh informed him the team could sign a punter.
“I remember telling them, it’s a business decision and you have to do what you think is best for the Ravens,” Koch said. “So they made that decision, and in that moment I think I knew my time was up and everything was fine. I’m very excited for the next chapter of my life and all that I can do , it’s appreciating how they handled it.”
Koch broke down several times reading his nine-page speech, explaining how he beat the odds as an extra in Nebraska and made the NFL despite not being invited to the combine of the NFL.
“I swear I practiced that a lot at home,” Koch said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Not once did it end like this.”
With Koch’s retirement, the Ravens freed up $2.1 million in much-needed salary cap space, which could be used to sign a wide receiver or pass-rusher. Baltimore goes from a bettor with the third-highest cap figure in the NFL ($3.175 million) to the 28th-highest figure ($879,459), which is significant for a Ravens team that has 7 million dollars in ceiling.
Koch, the 203rd player selected in the 2006 draft, is one of two active players in that draft class (tight end Marcedes Lewis is the other). His impact on the game goes beyond his single Pro Bowl season (2015).
Considered an innovator in punting circles, Koch created an assortment of kicks that caused returners problems getting a clean catch. He had a hook punt that fell in an “S” shape and a knuckleballer that was even harder to line up. Koch sometimes tightened his body so that he looked like he was throwing to the right side of the field when he was actually aiming the punt to the left. There are college bettors who refer to certain punts as “Koch’s hooks”.
As a Ravens punter for 16 of the team’s 26 years, Koch holds almost all franchise punting records: total punts (1,168), gross average (45.3) and punts to the inside the 20-yard line (450). The Ravens’ 11 longest punts all come off Koch’s right leg.
“Sam changed the punt,” Harbaugh said. “A lot of people don’t know that, but every punter knows that and every punting coach knows that. When you change something forever, to me, that’s a revolutionary type thing. That’s the mark of the height.”
The Ravens have often considered Koch their secret weapon for the many ways he helped Baltimore win. Koch has been called “the greatest starter in football history,” according to former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. He set up kicks for three Pro Bowl kickers: Matt Stover, Billy Cundiff and justin tuckerwho is the most accurate goal shooter in NFL history.
Koch’s most unusual badge of honor is that he’s the Ravens’ all-time leader in passer ratings. He completed 7 of 8 passes on fake punts for 82 yards and a rating of 109.4. His teammates considered Koch one of the best athletes on the team, and he showed his agility when he scored a seven-yard touchdown on a fake field goal in 2012 against the Raiders.
“You never really go into that thinking thinking that one of your top draft picks is going to be a punter,” DeCosta said. “Nobody says that. But in this case, it’s true.”
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Koch’s career came in Super Bowl XLVII, when he recorded one of the most important safeties of all time. With Baltimore holding a 34-29 lead with 12 seconds remaining, Koch took the snap in the end zone and ran eight seconds before going out of bounds, giving the San Francisco 49ers a game to play. attempt to win the game.
With the retirement of Koch and the cornerback jimmy smith unsigned, the only two players from that 2012 Super Bowl champion team currently under contract are Tucker and linebacker Josh Bynes. Koch will always be remembered for the way he pushed others around him to strive for perfection. When they were successful, he spoke his catchphrase: “Way to do your job.”
“Sam’s contributions are not just as a specialist or a role player, but as a leader and as someone who should absolutely be held up as an example of what it looks like to be a Raven,” Tucker said. “You’ve heard Sam talk about the opportunity to play with some of the great Ravens that have been. He’s absolutely in that conversation. His career makes him a lock on the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.”
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