Stover Ready In Case Of A Call To Action

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Notebook

Team's Longtime Kicker Is Keeping Himself In Shape

August 16, 2009|By Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee | Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

When the Ravens started training camp a few weeks ago, Matt Stover wasn't kicking a football. He was just kicking back.

Stover, the team's primary kicker throughout their 13-year history, took his wife, Debbie, to the Bahamas. This marks the first time since 1989 that Stover hasn't suited up for an NFL training camp.

"It's all about my family," Stover said of his first few months out of the NFL.

But don't get the wrong impression - Stover has taken time to relax, but he isn't retiring. "I'm in shape," he said. "I've been kicking."

As the Ravens let Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano compete for the kicking job, Stover continues to kick three times a week when he's not spending time with his three children.

The 41-year-old free agent hasn't spoken to the Ravens' personnel staff since the end of the season, but he talked with coach John Harbaugh in June. A few days before camp, Stover had a conversation with special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who acknowledged it was going to be a different summer without Stover.

"If they do call, I told them that I'll be ready," Stover said. "But I'm not waiting on them. I'm not begging to come back."

Stover said he has received some exploratory phone calls from other NFL teams, but he can't gauge his chances of kicking again this season. The biggest factors that will play into Stover's decision are the location of the team and the flexibility of its schedule.

"I believe I will get a phone call," said Stover, the third-most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history. "It's just whether or not it's going to fit with the family."

In the preseason opener, Hauschka kicked field goals from 21 and 37 yards. Gano converted from 39 yards but missed a 28-yarder to end the game.

Harbaugh said Saturday that there hasn't been any separation in the kicking competition.

"I think it's going to go down to the wire," he said.

A loss for the special teams

The season-ending injury to Marcus Smith hurts the Ravens' thin receiver group but it's a "huge loss" for special teams, Harbaugh said.

"Marcus was playing as well as any rookie on special teams last season," he said. "You saw it in the game - that's a big, strong gunner running down the field."

Smith confirmed that he would undergo surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that he tore in Thursday's preseason opener.

"[I'm] upset more than anything, frustrated," said Smith, who cheered on his teammates at practice while on crutches. "You work so hard to get to this point, to play this season and show yourself and prove that you've worked hard and all of those good things. Now you can't do it.

"You've got to wait another year before you can come out here and prove yourself. So it's definitely a bummer, but I'll come back bigger and stronger and faster."

Back to work

As the Ravens returned to the field after their first day off from training camp, Harbaugh decided to make a wardrobe change, wearing a blue-collared shirt with his name "John" written over the left pocket. It served as a visual reminder for everyone.

"All of us in the organization have had people go to work every day," Harbaugh said. "And they do jobs that are tough jobs. We have an opportunity to practice football. Who's got it better than us?

"I think our guys understand that. We should be excited to come out here and work and practice because we saw our fathers, our mothers and our grandparents put one of these shirts on and go to work to make sure all of us could get to where we ought to be."

End zone

Amid reports that third-string quarterback John Beck has broken his collarbone, the Ravens worked out Cleo Lemon. The team re-signed undrafted rookie Drew Willy on Saturday, but the Ravens might need a better long-term option. After practice, Harbaugh said Beck would not need surgery but did not know the details of the injury. Lemon was an undrafted free agent with the Ravens in 2002 and played under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Miami two years ago. ... Three players who were inactive for the preseason opener - offensive tackle Jared Gaither, guard Marshal Yanda and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo - all practiced. ... Reserve defensive tackle Lamar Divens (hip) was placed on injured reserve. ...Wide receiver Bradon Godfrey, a rookie out of Utah, was signed. He was released by the Atlanta Falcons last week. ... Returner and cornerback Chris Carr left practice early with an undisclosed injury.

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