Ravens look at ex-Colts kicker Blanchard works out at Owings Mills

Stover's job for now

September 09, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are sticking with place-kicker Matt Stover for now, but in the wake of his subpar performance in Sunday's season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, the team has decided to put more pressure on its nine-year veteran by taking a serious look at former Indianapolis kicker Cary Blanchard.

Blanchard, who was released by the Colts 10 days ago and played for coach Ted Marchibroda with Indianapolis in 1995, worked out for the Ravens yesterday at the team's Owings Mills facility.

"It was just a look-see thing. We're not doing anything right away," Marchibroda said. "[Blanchard] is a good kicker, he's capable of kicking in this league. Matt puts the ball through the uprights more than anyone I've ever been around [in practice], but Matt has to come through [in games]. You have to do better than 2-for-5."

Stover missed three of his five attempts in Sunday's 20-13 loss. Part of the problem lied with snapper Harper Le Bel, but Stover also acknowledged making some mechanical errors that contributed to his missing kicks from 42, 42 and 45 yards.

He also infuriated the team by shanking the game's opening kickoff out of bounds, a miscue that allowed Pittsburgh to begin its first possession at its 40. The Steelers converted that gift into an early 3-0 lead.

Stover also botched an attempted onside kick in the final minutes by hitting the ball too hard.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought we would miss three field goals on Sunday," Ravens special teams coach Scott O'Brien said. "Specialists have to be consistent and productive. Obviously [regarding Blanchard], there's a message, which Matt understands. It's a part of our evaluation at every position.

"I've worked with the guy for eight years. I know Matt and I'm

behind Matt. He's a good, solid kicker, a self-starter, a hard worker. But you're only as good as your last kick, and he knows that as much as anybody."

Stover, 30, who has been with the franchise since signing with the Cleveland Browns in 1991, entered the 1998 season ranked eighth on the NFL's all-time field goal accuracy list with a 79.3 percent success rate (153-for-193).

During his previous two years in Baltimore, though, he has kicked only one game-winning field goal. Then came Sunday's fiasco.

Blanchard, 29, who has spent five seasons in the NFL, could end up with the Oakland Raiders this week. The Raiders might try to replace Greg Davis, who missed two field-goal attempts against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.

After signing with the Jets as a free agent out of Oklahoma State in 1992, Blanchard kicked in New York for two years, was out of football in 1994, then joined the Colts in 1995.

Indianapolis, which plays indoors at home, went to the AFC title game that year under Marchibroda.

In 12 games, Blanchard hit 19 of 24 field-goal attempts. He came back to go 36-for-40 in 1996, then went 32-for-41 last year, before losing out to rookie Mike Vanderjagt when the Colts finalized their 53-man roster. Blanchard was due to make $325,000 in 1998.

Stover, who is signed here through 1999, already has pocketed a $900,000 roster bonus this year and is guaranteed an additional $216,000 salary this season.

"I've been in these shoes before. One, two, three times, I've had my back against the wall," Stover said. "What do I have to do? Perform. I'm sure [the Ravens] are evaluating Cary in case I don't do the job again.

"I've got to move on in this next game. Marchibroda is not going to wait for me to work this out. We've got to win this year. He's got to win this year."

NOTES: Marchibroda said quarterback Jim Harbaugh (finger) and wide receiver Michael Jackson (ribs) could miss practice today. He added that Rod Woodson's back spasms subsided yesterday, and he expects the veteran cornerback to practice. On Sunday, the New York Jets will be without second-year outside linebacker James Farrior. He suffered a sprained knee in the season opener against San Francisco and the first-round draft pick will miss at least two weeks. Right defensive end Michael McCrary, who recorded the first sack at the team's new stadium on Sunday by dropping quarterback Kordell Stewart for a 15-yard loss, has 21 1/2 sacks over his last 23 games.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: New York Jets

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Sunday, 1:01 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Off the board

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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