Stover: Players want Owens

Ravens will welcome him, kicker says

Owens hints at holdout if trade upheld

Stover re-signed for 5 years

Ravens: Owens will have clean slate when he gets here

Richey returning

March 10, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

While Terrell Owens is trying his best to avoid playing for the Ravens, the team's elder statesman said the four-time Pro Bowl receiver would be accepted inside the locker room.

"I understand the concerns. But as a player on this team - and I'll speak on our behalf - we want a guy like that," said kicker Matt Stover, 36, the team's players union representative who re-signed with the Ravens for five years yesterday.

"The players on this team will welcome him and will want him to get the ball because he is a game-changing athlete. When you have a player like that on the team, you only want to help him."

Owens, who was traded to the Ravens from the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, is fighting to rescind the trade so he can become an unrestricted free agent and play for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The NFL Players Association has filed a special-master case to try to nullify the deal, but no date has been set for the hearing. Stephen Burbank, the arbiter who will hear Owens' case, declined to comment through an e-mail.

If he fails to win the dispute, Owens hinted in an interview last night with The Philadelphia Inquirer that he may sit out rather than play for the Ravens.

"Like I told Ozzie [Newsome, general manager], `Why would you want somebody that doesn't want you?' It's crazy," Owens told The Inquirer. "I told him, `I don't want to be in Baltimore. I want to be in Philadelphia.' I don't want to say definitely that I'd hold out. But I want to emphasize I want to be in Philly so bad, that holding out is actually on my mind."

When asked why he wants to play so badly for the Eagles, he said, "People have written them off. They think their time is up. I don't think so. Nobody knows what's going to happen, especially if I'm there with Donovan McNabb. That's just how I feel."

Owens had planned to become an unrestricted free agent before his agent, David Joseph, missed a deadline last month to void the final three seasons of his current contract. After the NFL Management Council ruled he wasn't a free agent, the 49ers dealt him to the Ravens in exchange for a second-round pick.

The Ravens have no plans to overturn the trade and indicated he will have a clean slate when he reports to the team.

"Until we have the opportunity for Terrell to be here, those [comments] are things that happened before," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're still in the before stage right now. We'll let the union and the league do its business. We'll address it at that point. This is going to resolve itself.

"Until he has a chance to be here and interact with this organization and go forward as a legitimate Baltimore Raven, I think anything that precedes that, precedes that."

The Ravens made strides on special teams, re-signing Stover and agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with kickoff specialist Wade Richey. It is believed Stover signed a contract that averages over $1 million per season and includes a signing bonus just under $1.5 million.

The only remaining Raven left since the franchise moved from Cleveland, Stover said he had received a viable offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars but "was always committed to staying here in Baltimore" where he has lived year-round since 2001.

Stover was generally considered the best kicker available in free agency, ranking fourth all time in career field-goal percentage (82.3 percent). He was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, when he connected on 33 of 38 field-goal attempts (including a stretch of 22 straight) and kicked two game-winning field goals in overtime.

"If we cross the 30[-yard line], we know that we have points on the board at the minimum, and that factors into our game plan," Billick said. "It is why we have been able to win the games that we have won. When you have that, it is a real comfort zone."

Like Stover, Richey was targeted as a priority to be re-signed.

He had 14 touchbacks (second in the NFL) on 81 kickoffs last season, becoming an integral part in the Ravens winning the field-position battle. His leg should be even stronger being a year removed from surgery.

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