Stover isn't kicking about early success He has made five of six field-goal tries despite snap and hold problems

Ravens notebook

August 21, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Place-kicker Matt Stover ended the 1997 season by missing five field-goal tries, but he has been hot in the 1998 preseason, converting five of six.

Stover, in his eighth season, was 3-for-4 in the Ravens' 33-0 win over the New York Jets on Saturday, hitting on field goals of 51, 37 and 32 yards. He missed a 39-yard attempt in the third quarter.

Even more impressive is that Stover has kicked well despite problems on the snap and hold. Against the Chicago Bears in the preseason opener, Stover was not unnerved after converting on a 28-yarder that was called back on a 10-yard holding penalty in the third quarter. He hit the 38-yarder, too.

"I think I'm hitting it well," said Stover. "We have a new snapper, Harper Le Bel, who is very good and he is getting it down. He'll get better. We've had some problems with the hold, but that's good because I'm kicking through a lot of situations.

"That's what preseason is all about. In a way, you want those kind of things to happen so when it does in a regular-season game you've already faced it. I feel pretty good right now, but in this business you only take it one game at a time."

Entering this season, Stover is 111 of 121 on field-goal attempts (.917) inside the 40-yard line and has scored 681 career points.

Knock on Williams' door

Guard Wally Williams had a strange visitor during his 24-day holdout.

On the Monday following the Ravens' rout of the Jets on Saturday night, 6-foot-7, 350-pound right offensive tackle Orlando Brown was knocking on Williams' door at 6: 45 in the morning. Williams had said he would report on the Monday following that game.

Brown was there to give Williams assistance to training camp.

"Good thing the wife and kids were out of town," said Williams. "I said, 'Orlando, what's up with this?' He said it was time for me to get to training camp.

"I said, 'Orlando, you guys are not doing anything today but meetings, so man, you got to go. You got to start steppin' up on out of here.' "

Brown left and Williams reported two days later. When Williams walked into camp, the second person he saw was Brown, sitting in the training room.

Brown greeted Williams with a right fist to his chest. The two are still best friends.

"He was a lying dog," said Brown, laughing.

Two backs favored

The offensive linemen are excited about the team's two-back set and emphasis on running the football.

Last year, the Ravens had the biggest offensive line in the NFL, but operated out of a one-back set with three receivers.

There already is a friendly competition among the linemen.

"We've been bugging them for it for two years," said Williams. "We're looking forward to the opportunity. I'm just getting here, but in the last couple of days you can see that the two-back set opens up a lot of things. It gives you more versatility. There is a smash-mouth atmosphere here because we have a smash-mouth offense."

"In the last two years, we ran the heck out of the ball in the preseason but that changed during the regular season," said Brown. "I'll let you know how it's going after seven games into the season. Running the ball is something we want to do."

A Hurricane thing

The University of Miami connection has its own private dance on defense.

Only a few days into training camp, former Hurricanes linebacker Ray Lewis converted rookie and former Miami cornerback Duane Starks into a fan of Bill Goldberg, currently the champion of World Championship Wrestling.

If either Raven makes a big play, Lewis jumps up and spreads his legs like Goldberg does before the champ puts on his match-ending move.

If Starks makes a big play, he acts as if he is using uppercuts, as does Goldberg when he enters the ring.

It's a Miami thing.

"I introduced that to Starks one Monday night," said Lewis. "He kept talking about Stone Cold [World Wide Wrestling champion Steve Austin]. He was rooting for the same guy as my mule, my best friend, Bennie Thompson, but I couldn't have that. Goldberg gets a lot of people pumped up; he is real emotional. I got Starks started as soon as he hit the scene."

Hi to an old pal

Linebacker Peter Boulware will renew acquaintance with an old friend Monday night when the Ravens play the Eagles in their third preseason game.

Offensive tackle Tra Thomas was Philadelphia's first-round pick last April out of Florida State.

"We came in together," said Boulware, "and we used to go against each other every day in practice. He is a great run blocker. He is a very big, physical guy who is going to try to beat you every time on the line of scrimmage."

Getting better

A year has made a big difference in second-year fullback Kenyon Cotton and running back Priest Holmes. Both were used sparingly last season when they were free-agent rookies, but coach Ted Marchibroda said they are two of the most improved players.

Cotton is second-string fullback behind Roosevelt Potts and Holmes is the No. 3 running back after Jay Graham and Errict Rhett.

Both will see extensive action on special teams this season.

"That's something nice to hear from a coach," said Holmes. "I just tried to prepare myself. Last year, I just watched and listened. I didn't get to play much, but I had an opportunity to watch the veterans, even rookies like Jay Graham, who got pushed to the wolves early. But the whole time I was sitting, I was learning."

"Hey, we just come out and do our jobs," said Cotton, who has developed into a solid blocker compared to a year ago.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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