Ravens sign veteran kicker Nedney

Ex-Cardinal to be used on kickoffs

Stover retained

October 06, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens turned up the heat on kicker Matt Stover yesterday by acquiring veteran Joe Nedney, whom they claimed off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals.

For the time being, Stover and Nedney will remain on the team's 53-man roster, although Ravens coach Brian Billick hinted that could change in the near future. Billick and Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, said Nedney is coming on board initially to relieve Stover of duty on kickoffs, in which Nedney has excelled during his four-year career.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who carry Mike Hollis for place-kicking and Steve Lindsey for kickoffs, are the only other team in the NFL with two kickers on their roster.

The Ravens released backup linebacker Jeff Kopp to make room for Nedney. Kopp spent the past two games on the inactive list.

The addition of Nedney, 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, came two days after Stover infuriated Billick by missing a 38-yard field-goal attempt early in Sunday's 19-13 overtime victory in Atlanta. Stover later sent a kickoff sailing out of bounds, resulting in a penalty that gave the Falcons the ball at their 40.

Nedney "is a big-legged kicker, and we're hoping he will give us increased efficiency that will help our kickoff team," Billick said. "We also hope this gives Matt a chance to focus more on field-goal kicking, so he can increase his efficiency in that area. There are a number of different [roster] scenarios which might come up in the next week or two or three.

"The margin for error for this team is very small, and we have to squeeze as much efficiency out of every aspect for us to think we can make a run at the playoffs or be a winning team."

Billick plans to watch Nedney closely in practice this week. He already feels good about his ability to perform on kickoffs, because Nedney recorded 29 touchbacks on 83 kickoff attempts over the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Nedney kicked off for Arizona in only one game this year.

Stover has one touchback this season on 16 kickoffs.

Nedney, who had been sharing duties with Chris Jacke in Arizona, originally signed as a free agent with Green Bay in 1995, and did not make a roster until 1996 with Miami. He joined Arizona in 1997, then converted on 24 of 36 field-goal attempts over the next two seasons there.

If Nedney -- who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat the Ravens at Memorial Stadium in 1997 -- shows enough consistency as a place-kicker, he could spell the end of Stover in Baltimore.

Stover, who has converted on six of nine field-goal tries this year, entered the 1999 season ranked 11th on the NFL's all-time field-goal accuracy list with a 78.7 percent success rate.

Players were off yesterday, and Stover could not be reached for comment.

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