The U.S. government has Area 51. The Ravens have Field 4.
It might not be quite as top-secret as the government's Nevada facility, but the Ravens' Field 4 is the one no one sees and that no one knew about -- until kicker Justin Tucker spilled the beans.
After he made his game-winning, 46-yard field goal in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers Oct. 6, Tucker noted that the Ravens specialists frequently use the never-seen Field 4 to simulate the tough kicking conditions of Heinz Field.
As anyone who has attended training camp practices knows, there are three full-length practice fields at the Ravens' complex, with two running side-by-side and one running perpendicular to those two.
Field 4 (Courtesy of Google Maps)
"There is fourth field that no one really knows about," Tucker said. "The grass just grows like a meadow over there." That's by design; the Ravens deliberately grow and chew up the grass and gouge out spots. "We'll just take a bucket of water and pour it" where Tucker is supposed to land his plant foot on a kick.
It's a methodology that goes "all the way back to my rookie year with [then-special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg," Tucker said.
It's all designed to simulate the tough footing at Heinz Field, considered one of the most notorious venues in the league for kickers.
It has clearly worked.
After going 4-for-4 in the Week 5 win -- including a 48-yarder with 10 seconds left to force overtime and a 46-yarder to win it -- Tucker is now 25-for-26 in his career at Heinz Field and has made 24 straight kicks there. Three times he has gone 4-for-4 on field-goal tries at Pittsburgh.
Granted, it's hard to simulate the winds that swirl around the open end of Heinz Field -- where many field-goal tries go to die, and where Tucker's game-winner curved just inside the left upright. But the Ravens do what they can to prepare for crucial kicks on a natural grass field that is frequently badly chewed up late in games when pressure kicks happen.
And Tucker -- who is always quick to credit his specialist "Wolfpack" teammates, long snapper Morgan Cox and holder Sam Koch -- has almost always been up to the task, at Heinz Field and elsewhere. The overtime kick against the Steelers was the 14th game-winner of his career.
"There's always nerves, butterflies, whatever you want to call it," Tucker said. "I'd go so far as to say, in the smallest bit of time there, terror. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. You can be equal parts nervous, scared, confident, excited, and none of it really matters."
"All that matters," Tucker added, "is those 1.3 seconds between the snap, the hold, and when the ball leaves my foot."
And some extra work on top-secret Field 4.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox