P Koch, Ravens’ longest-tenured player, retires

NFL

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch announced his retirement on Thursday, ending the career of the longest-tenured player in franchise history.

Koch, 39, will remain with the Ravens as a special teams consultant this season and mentor Penn State punter Jordan Stout, who was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round 19 days ago.

A 16-year veteran, Koch played in a team-record 256 games in Baltimore, 27 more than any other Ravens player. The only active player with longer current service with his team is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

It was apparent that Koch’s time with the Ravens was over on April 30, when Stout became the first punter taken in this year’s draft. Stout, who was the only punter that the Ravens were considering drafting, is the highest drafted punter in three years.

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 having a punter with the NFL’s third-highest cap figure ($3.175 million) to the 28th-highest one ($879,459), which is important for a Ravens team that has $7 million in cap room.

Koch, the 203rd player selected in the 2006 draft, is one of two active players from that draft class (tight end Marcedes Lewis is the other). His impact on the game goes beyond his one Pro Bowl season (2015).

Considered an innovator in punting circles, Koch created an assortment of kicks that caused problems for returners to make a clean catch. He had a hook punt that dropped in the shape of an “S” and a knuckleballer that was even harder to field. Koch sometimes torqued his body such that it looked like he was punting to the right side of the field when he was actually angling the punt to the left. There are college punters who refer to certain trick punts as “Koch hooks.”

As the Ravens’ punter for 16 of the team’s 26 years of existence, Koch holds nearly every punting record for the franchise: total punts (1,168), gross average (45.3) and punts inside the 20-yard line (450). The Ravens’ 11 longest punts have all come from Koch’s right leg.

The Ravens have often considered Koch their secret weapon for the many ways he has helped Baltimore win. Koch has been referred to as “the best holder in the history of football,” according to former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. He has set up kicks for three Pro Bowl kickers: Matt Stover, Billy Cundiff and Justin Tucker, who is the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history.

Koch’s most unusual badge of honor is that he’s the Ravens’ all-time leader in passer rating. He has completed 7 of 8 passes on fake punts for 82 yards and a rating of 109.4. Teammates regarded Koch as one of the best athletes on the team, and he showed his agility when he scored a seven-yard touchdown off a fake field goal in 2012 against the Raiders.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of Koch’s career came in Super Bowl XLVII, when he recorded one of the most important safeties ever. With Baltimore holding a 34-29 lead with 12 seconds remaining, Koch took the snap in the end zone and ran off eight seconds before going out of bounds, which gave the San Francisco 49ers one play to try to win the game.

With Koch retiring and cornerback Jimmy Smith unsigned, the only player from that 2012 Super Bowl-champion team currently under contract is Tucker.

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