BALTIMORE — A year ago, Kaare Vedvik was an undrafted rookie showing limitless promise.
The Marshall product displayed a strong leg as both a placekicker and a punter. Vedvik made eight of the nine field goals he attempted for the Ravens last preseason, including a long of 56 yards in the finale.
But Vedvik found himself hospitalized after he was the victim of a late-night assault just before NFL teams set their 53-man rosters. The Norwegian-born kicker was hospitalized with facial injuries and played on the non-football injury list, ending his rookie season before it could officially begin. He likely would have been someone teams with a need for a kicker would have traded for, or he would have been scooped up quickly had he become a free agent.
“At first, it seemed kind of surreal. One thing is hearing stories like that, but when it happens to yourself it takes some time for it to really sink it. It eventually did, and I kind of just had to face it,” Vedvik said Thursday night after the Ravens defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 29-0, in the preseason opener. “What happened, happened. As a person, I’ve got to grow from it, I’ve got to learn from it, and hopefully become a better person from it. Take your lessons, man. You want to have a smart head on your shoulder and keep the people close to you, close to you. People in the Ravens care a lot about me, and my family cares a lot about me, my friends care a lot about me.”
It was more than an exhibition for Vedvik, who played in his first game since the incident nearly a year ago.
He stole the show, making all four of his field goal attempts including from lengths of 55 and 45 yards.
“So happy for him. Not surprised,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He was really confident before the game when I talked to him. He believed he was going to make them all, and he did it. So, hats off to him.”
Vedvik also punted twice Thursday, booming the ball lengths of 58 and 53 yards.
“I didn’t even know that. I knew they were long,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a talented guy and he works really hard at it, and he has great coaches. [Assistant special teams coach] Randy Brown does a great job, and ‘Tuck’ [Justin Tucker] and Sam [Koch] do a great job with him, too. I think he knows how blessed he is in that way, too. It was good for him.”
Vedvik admitted his emotions ran high following the game. His rode back to the field was a long one.
“It was a lot more emotional than I thought it was going to be. A lot of anticipation; it’s been a long year building up to come back to this moment again. I love football,” he said. “Getting back on the field, man, it’s just a different feeling.”
While he recovered from the assault, Vedvik found himself with more time on his hands than he was accustomed to. He began to keep a diary, jotting down his goals. It helped him remain focused during the arduous road back to the field.
Vedvik spent his would-be rookie year emphasizing self-discipline. He seems to acknowledge he made some poor decisions that began with a night out with teammates in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood and resulted in being found by police at 4 a.m. in a different part of the city.
“You’re used to being a college student and having a very structured schedule around you all the time – you’re told what to do from morning to evening – then all of a sudden, you’re day is over at 10 a.m. It’s important to find out what your objectives are and truly follow those and be disciplined with yourself,” Vedvik said. “That was a year for me to truly focus on self-discipline, keep promises to myself. What I’m going to do is get back here, this is where I belong. That’s my dream, it’s my goal. Anything that didn’t fit into the objectives I wrote down to go toward my dreams and my goals, it wasn’t going to belong in my life.”
Vedvik tighten his circle around him. Along with his family, he leaned heavily on kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch and long-snapper Morgan Cox. No one in M&T Bank Stadium seemed happier than Tucker when Vedvik drilled the 55-yard kick midway through the second quarter.
“You know, you think your life is supposed to go a certain way. You think you have a certain amount of control, and in moments like what happened last year, you kind of lose that sense. It had a huge impact on me – more than I thought it would have had. So, this year has been about me being closer to people close to me,” Vedvik said. “They only want the best for me, and they’ve done everything in their power to get me back to where I belong. This is where I belong. I feel it.”
The place kicking job in Baltimore will continue to belong to Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history. And Koch will be the Ravens’ punter, also regarded among the best at what he does.
But Vedvik’s flawless performance Thursday night served as an audition for every other team in the league, most notably the Chicago Bears, who have endured well-documented kicking woes recently.
The Ravens’ asking price for a trade for Vedvik likely increased as each kick sailed between the goal posts, but that is not for him to worry about.
“I don’t really ever think about that. I’m just focused on playing the game. That’s it,” he said. “If teams are interested, they talk to coach – head honcho. They’ll make that happen, I’m just going to play the game.”
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