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Ravens' Stover still gets a kick out of football

December 31, 2008

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Matt Stover was kicking field goals in the NFL before the Baltimore Ravens became the Baltimore Ravens.

Stover came to Baltimore with the Cleveland Browns in 1996. He has led the Ravens in scoring in every season, amassing 1,464 points, and has 52 points in 10 playoff games. He ranks third in NFL history in accuracy, connecting on 83.7 percent of his 552 field goal tries, including 27 of 33 (81.8 percent) this season.

So, if Sunday's wild-card game against the Miami Dolphins comes down to a last-minute field goal try, the Ravens feel good about putting their trust in a 19-year veteran who's already got 13 game-winning kicks on his career ledger.

"I have to consider that every game is going to come down to me," Stover said Wednesday. "During the week of practice, that's my train of thought. You visualize it, you imagine it, you emotionally feel it. Then when it comes time to do it, you're prepared."

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Stover may not own the strongest leg in the game, but he makes up for it with accuracy and experience.

"He's been through the battles, been through the pressure, played in the Super Bowl," said Ravens tackle Adam Terry, a member of the field goal team. "He's battle-tested and ready to go. I wouldn't want anyone else, really."

Terry was a 9-year-old when Stover kicked his first field goal for the Browns in 1991. It would seem reasonable to believe that by now Stover can put one through the uprights in his sleep, but his regimented technique required a serious adjustment earlier this season after he misfired on three of his first seven tries.

That's because new special teams coach Jerry Rosburg found a way to put the ball down for Stover quicker than ever before, and the 40-year-old kicker was having difficulty making the adjustment.

"You're talking four to five one-hundredths of a second. Any golfer will understand that when you pull the trigger too quick, you tend not to hit it square every time," Stover said. "As the year went on, I cleaned it up."

The statistics bear out the assessment. Stover clicked on 24 of his last 26 tries during the regular season, missing only from 50 and 48 yards.

Stover is so automatic, there's really no reason for the offense to watch him cash in after getting into field-goal range.

"I don't even pay attention to it unless it's like one of those long, long ones at the end of the game," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "For the most part, when Matt gets on the field, I'm on the sideline sitting on the bench because his track record speaks for itself. For me to think about whether Matt's going to make a kick or not, I can worry about other things."

Stover has lost some of the distance on his kicks, but remains deadly accurate from inside 45 yards and can still connect from longer distances under the right circumstances. He has no contract next season, but hopes his performance this season will at least warrant an invitation to extend his tenure in the NFL to 20 years (including a season on injured reserve with the New York Giants in 1990).

"I'm going to let that take care of itself. Hopefully I can come back as a Raven," Stover said. "I'll be 41 at the end of January. Am I still desiring to kick? You betcha. Do I still want to win Super Bowls and help this team win? Absolutely."

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