Ravens punter Sam Koch, who has played more games in a Ravens uniform than anyone else in history, officially announced his retirement May 19.
Koch will join the coaching staff as a special teams consultant.
Koch, who turns 40 in August, is the longest-tenured Raven, having been drafted in the sixth round out of Nebraska in 2006. He has played in 256 regular-season games for the Ravens, and in 2020 broke the franchise record of 229 previously held by Terrell Suggs.
Koch made the 2015 Pro Bowl and was a Pro Bowl alternate three times, but his roster spot became tenuous at best after the Ravens selected Penn State punter Jordan Stout in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
Koch was entering the final year of his latest contract extension, signed in March 2020, and his retirement creates $2.1 million in cap room for the team.
This past season, Koch’s 16th with the Ravens, he punted 71 times for an average of 44.4 yards, which ranked 28th in the league and was slightly below his career average of 45.3. He tied for eighth in the league with 26 punts downed inside the opposing 20-yard line. Koch averaged a career-best 47.4 yards in 2014 and 2018.
As the team’s most established veteran, Koch has been a leading member of the players’ leadership council, a group that regularly engages with head coach John Harbaugh on issues related to the team.
“I’ve never been around a better pro than Sam,” Harbaugh said earlier this year. “He’s more partner than player. He’s more a player-coach. … Sam is just one of the all-time greats.”
Koch holds virtually every significant punting record for the Ravens, including most career punts (1,168), highest average for a season (47.4) and career (45.3) and longest punt (74 yards).
The only player on the current team who played for Ravens head coach Brian Billick, Koch missed just one game in his career — the 2020 regular-season finale when he was placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list. The starting quarterbacks in his first NFL game were Steve McNair (Ravens) and Chris Simms (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Koch revolutionized the art of punting with his repertoire of spins and directional kicking.
“The game has changed because of Sam’s punts,” Rosburg said in 2018. “The way he punts the ball, and the variety of different methods that he uses is now … working its way down into the high school ranks and summer camps. Coaches are coaching these things and watching Sam, and it’s really a testament to his skill level.”
Koch’s skill transcended punting, though, and he played a vital role in the Ravens’ placekicking operation. Rosburg called Koch “the best holder in the history of football” and credited Koch to some degree with the success of Ravens kickers Matt Stover — whom Koch worked with for three years — and record-setting Justin Tucker.
Tucker has echoed that sentiment, frequently acknowledging Koch’s role in making Tucker the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history.
Koch, a superb all-around athlete who regularly threw passes to receivers during pregame warmups, was 7-for-8 in his career as a passer on fake punts or fake field goals, with the first incompletion of his career coming in what proved to be his final career game.
Koch’s career with the team seemed to be at an end when the Ravens selected Stout in the fourth round of this year’s draft. General manager Eric DeCosta said he had discussions with Koch leading up to the draft and notified Koch that the team might be selecting a punter.
After selecting Stout and with Koch’s future seemingly at an end, DeCosta had called Koch “iconic” and “part of the fabric of this team.”
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