Stepping in, Stover awarded game ball

Ravens notebook

With Richey deactivated, veteran handles kickoffs and hits four field goals

Pro Football

October 14, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Matt Stover's day in the sun this season finally arrived.

Actually, it came via the Arizona heat and the Ravens' decision to activate just one kicker for Sunday's game, a 26-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Stover had his most active day in quite some time, making all four of his field-goal attempts, both of his extra-point attempts, punting once and handling all seven kickoffs, including one that required a touchdown-saving tackle.

It was the first time this season Stover had to kick off, and the four field goals were his season high.

"I train all offseason for having to step in and kick off," said Stover, who replaced Wade Richey for the day. "I knew at some point in the season it probably would have to show itself, and it did. Good conditions for a kicker to kick in, to say the least."

Richey had handled the kickoff duties in the four previous games, recording one touchback. Because of the 96-degree heat, the Ravens decided to activate receiver Dedric Ward to help out on special teams.

Stover sent one of his kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback and three more inside the 10-yard line. It was Stover's first time kicking off since the final game of last season. He also made his most field goals since Week 4 of last season against the Cleveland Browns.

"What the team asked me to do, I executed it," Stover said. "When they asked me to go short and right, I did that. When they asked me to squib it, I did that. And when they told me to go deep, I did that. I think I did a decent job, but there is always room for improvement."

For his day, Stover was awarded a game ball.

"Because he had to change up and kick off because we wanted to carry an extra guy on the roster, Matt did a great job," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

McAlister awarded, too

Begrudgingly, Billick awarded Chris McAlister a game ball for his two-interception performance against the Cardinals.

McAlister returned one of the interceptions 83 yards for a touchdown, but was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he pointed the ball toward the Cardinals' offense, then backpedaled into the end zone.

"It's like pouring gasoline on a fire," Billick said. "It pains me to do so, but not only the interceptions, but the breakups, Chris had a great game. And hopefully we can learn from some of the other things that went with it."

Tight end Terry Jones was awarded the offense's game ball.

M. Smith awaits chance

The Ravens didn't activate running back Musa Smith for Sunday's game, even though his name was not on the injury list for the first time this season.

The team's third-round pick, Smith has practiced little since the beginning of training camp because of a knee injury but is now available to play.

"Because of the limit of 45 [players on game day], in order to get him up to have that opportunity, he really has to show us a special teams presence," Billick said. "It's a lot to carry that third back just so you can get him that four or five carries, maybe, at the end of a game.

"He has some special teams possibilities. We like what we saw before he got hurt."

Strong division hand

A week after taking over sole possession of first place in the AFC North, the Ravens strengthened their grip with a win and the Pittsburgh Steelers' 17-14 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The Ravens (3-2) are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Steelers (2-4) and a half game ahead of the Cleveland Browns (3-3), who beat the Oakland Raiders, 13-7 (the Ravens currently hold the tiebreaker over the Browns by virtue of their earlier victory).

All this means very little to Billick.

"We said last week at the quarter mark that we'll stick our heads up to see where we are at," Billick said. "We'll do that at the halfway point, as well. So right now, our heads are still down. It's all about Cincinnati. It's got to be all about Cincinnati and the rest will take care of itself."

End zone

Billick and Cardinals quarterback Jeff Blake did not talk to each other before or after the game. Blake, a Ravens quarterback last year, socialized with a few of his ex-teammates beforehand. "Didn't see him afterward," Billick said. ... The players had yesterday off.

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