Stover contributes, even in open field

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Special teams tackle earns Billick's praise

December 14, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Matt Stover made a critical play in the Ravens' victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and it had nothing to do with his feet.

The 17-year veteran might have shifted the game's momentum when he tackled Chiefs return specialist Dante Hall, preventing the man who has returned 11 kicks and punts for touchdowns from adding No. 12 on the opening kickoff.

"I wish I didn't have to," Stover said of making the tackle at Kansas City's 49-yard line. "I did feel my man from the inside, so I knew that I had somebody protecting the inside. I just had to keep him from going to the outside."

The tackle drew the attention of Ravens coach Brian Billick. "That was pretty good, physical," he said. "He didn't breathe for about a minute-and-half when he came off to the sidelines, but it was great to see him stick it in there."

Tackles aside, Stover, 38, extended what has been a successful season when he connected on a 41-yard field goal with 3:45 left in the first quarter against the Chiefs.

That conversion gave Stover 400 career field goals, lifting him to an exclusive group of kickers who have at least 400 career field goals. The three other members of the group are Gary Anderson (538 field goals), Morten Andersen (537) and John Carney (409).

After joking that the only similarity Stover shared with them was old age, Stover deflected the credit to teammates.

"Yeah, I'm out there kicking, but I've got 10 other guys out there working for me, too," he said. "And the fact that [general manager] Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick believed in me for so long and have given me the opportunities to go out there and perform like I have has just been a privilege and a blast."

Stover - who until Nov. 19 had converted 36 consecutive field goals for the third-longest streak in NFL history - said he hopes he continues to make more news with his foot instead of his body.

"This year, that was my first [special-teams tackle], which I hope is my last," Stover said.

Mason questionable

Wide receiver Derrick Mason (thigh) was a surprise absence during the portion of practice open to the media yesterday, and Billick said afterward that Mason was limited during the rest of the day.

"He's a little stiff," Billick said of Mason, who is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with the Cleveland Browns. "But I'm confident that he will get through the week."

Linebacker Dan Cody (knee), who also was not present during the first 30 minutes of practice, and safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) also are questionable, and offensive tackle Adam Terry (back) is probable.

Running back Musa Smith (neck) was at practice, but did not dress and has been ruled out.

Seven Cleveland starters are listed as questionable or worse. Left guard Joe Andruzzi (knee) and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (toe) are the most serious concerns and are doubtful.

Cornerback Leigh Bodden (ankle), quarterback Charlie Frye (wrist), linebacker Willie McGinest (pectoral), nose tackle Ted Washington (knee) and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (knee) are questionable.

Thursday criticism

Browns coach Romeo Crennel seemed to agree with Billick's comments Monday that the NFL should reconsider Thursday night games.

"I think that a short week and a short turnaround makes it tough, particularly depending on your physical state as a team," Crennel said. "If you're beat up and you've got to play on a short week, the chances are you're going to be more beat up."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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