Stover Ring Of Honor No-Brainer, But Who Will Join Him?

May 27, 2011 | Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover formalized his retirement Thursday in a press conference at 1 Winning Drive.

“Playing for the Baltimore Ravens, I think I’ve always said that it’s a privilege” said Stover. “Being in the league has been a privilege-more than you can imagine.”

Stover had not kicked for the Ravens since the end of the 2008 season, he had not kicked in the National Football League at all since spending the end of the 2009 season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Stover, 43, spent 13 seasons in Charm City after coming to the city when the Cleveland Browns moved following the 1995 season. He was the only remaining player who came from Cleveland until he left after ’08.

During his 13 seasons in Baltimore, Stover made 354 of his 418 field goal attempts (84.6%), finishing 471/563 (83.7%) for his career. He was named the AFC’s Pro Bowl kicker twice in his career, including once in Baltimore (2000), the same season he played a significant role in helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV, the only Super Bowl title in the team’s brief history.

It came with no surprise that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti announced that the team would induct Stover into their Ring of Honor on November 20th when the team hosts the Cincinnati Bengals.

“The thing about being in the Ring of Honor is that I meant to much to my team, the community” said Stover. “That to me is an awesome, awesome privilege. I can’t imagine any greater honor that an organization can give to a player, and I appreciate the Ravens doing that. I’ll be proud to do it…to retire as a Raven with some other great players.”

Stover’s on-field role would have been enough to guarantee his inclusion, but his community involvement (most notably with the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes) set him apart from other successful players in franchise history. Stover was a beloved figure during his time in Baltimore, even amongst fans who wouldn’t be considered amongst the most passionate.

Clearly Stover meets all qualifications to join OT Jonathan Ogden, LB Peter Boulware, DE Michael McCrary, Former Owner Art Modell, RB/Contributor Earnest Byner and the Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts as being featured prominently at M&T Bank Stadium to be remembered for the eternity of the franchise’s existence.

The question moving forward for me is now “who will join him?”

The Ravens have been very fortunate to have a number of great players/contributors in recent years, many of whom are worthy of consideration.

Here is the explanation of the criteria used by the Ravens when selecting players to their Ring of Honor…

“Character: The induction into the Ravens Ring of Honor represents the highest honor for a career of individual accomplishment resulting in team success. Teams constructed with character reduce uncertainty and stay on their purpose Ravens of Honor maintain direction with intense focus character is at the beginning of the cycle and takes them all the way to a successful ending.

Gratitude: Ravens of Honor carry forth a special attitude of gratitude, to those around them, they are always a fountain rather then a drain. Each is different but all keep those around them on the path of progression. Their basic ability to enjoy their talents and gifts of others help them to continually contribute as opposed to contaminate.

Vision: Fueled by self-knowledge, great character and an appreciation for everything available to them. Ravens of Honor visualize short and long term successes in Technicolor. They are, through vision, great connectors. Those around them are energized and they use all that surrounds them to create an inspirational bigger picture.

Passion: Passionate Ravens have an unusual ability to face failure, physical setbacks and exhaustion. They have an internal tenacity that helps them get back up when knocked down. Their passion motivates teammates to join in on the pursuit of the team dream. Passion breeds conviction and turns mediocrity into excellence. With passion, we can overcome all obstacles.

Faith & Courage: Ravens of Honor stand tall in the good times as well as the rough times. They are help up by their deep faith in themselves, their teammates and their fans. Inspired by belief in a great destiny, these champions never waver from their victorious path. Faith is belief in what you cannot see. Great vision matched with unbridled passion sets up absolute faith. Faith evokes a special courage and confidence. When matched with action, faith kills worry and procrastination, the two traits which produce regular failure.

Competitive Spirit: True competitors want to be put on the line and measured. They thrive on adversity and use it to achieve a special edge. They know the easy lakes get fished out first, thus they skip the easy. Persistence, determination, tenacity and sportsmanship are the hallmarks of this warrior mentality. Ravens of Honor need character, gratitude, vision, passion and faith to become a championship caliber competitor. There are no shortcuts and they do not look for them, because their competitive fire will not allow them to.

Humility: Humility in oneself inspires the best of others and feeds our character. A vital aspect of the true leadership is the willingness of others to follow.”

Nowhere on that list does it state that a player has to have reached a Pro Bowl as a Raven, which has been believed to be a bit of an unwritten rule within the franchise. In fact, a Ravens executive told me Thursday the qualifications could really be stated as “extraordinary contributions to the NFL, the Ravens and the community.” The same executive was willing to admit however that “it will be more difficult to make our Ring of Honor if the player was never recognized as a Pro Bowler, but it could happen.”

There are a number of current Ravens whose inclusion in the Ring of Honor seems to be as simple a decision as Stover’s. LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed and TE Todd Heap all seem to be easy choices after their careers conclude. WR Derrick Mason certainly has an argument. LB Terrell Suggs and DT Haloti Ngata have laid the groundwork for what could ultimately become Ring of Honor careers.

Perhaps a bit more interesting in the list of former Ravens who have not yet been honored. RB Jamal Lewis, CB Chris McAlister, DT Tony Siragusa, OL Edwin Mulitalo  and former Coach Brian Billick (full disclosure-Billick is now a part owner of WNST.net) have all moved on from their careers but have not been honored. General Manager Ozzie Newsome would seem to be a potential future honoree, and LB/contributor O.J. Brigance was the subject of a recent Facebook campaign seeking his induction.

There is an argument as to why any of the above names should be in. The reality is that in the next ten years, the team’s Ring of Honor could grow exponentially.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with being an organization that has a number of great players/contributors afforded significant recognition. An argument could be made that it simply reflects the greatness of the organization to have such an expansive number of ROH honorees.

At the same time, the Ravens do face a dilemma as they consider the future of the way they recognize players. In thirty years, these names will all represent the finest players/contributors in franchise history. The organization must at least be willing to ask the question “will this player’s inclusion still make sense when we look back in 30 years?”

It is a more significant honor than the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame, where a player is simply noted on a tough to find outfield plaque at Oriole Park at Camden Yards after honored at a pregame ceremony and luncheon. Fans don’t have to stare at the names for decades and debate the merit of their inclusion during games the way fans do at M&T Bank Stadium.

We’ve all experienced the moment where someone sitting near us says “did they REALLY put Earnest Byner in the Ring of Honor?” The answer is yes, and we’re all equally uncomfortable about despite our great respect for Mr. Modell.

As the team considers other candidates, they must keep in mind those questions. “Is ______ really in the Ring of Honor? Didn’t he only play here for like four seasons?” “You guys put ______ in the Ring of Honor? Did he ever even get to the Pro Bowl?”

They’ll be relevant questions that Ravens fans will have to answer.

The team doesn’t want to make the requirements for induction more stringent, as they want to be able to make their own decisions about who to induct instead of limiting themselves by instituting additional requirements.

Make no mistake. Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister, Brian Billick, Ozzie Newsome and Todd Heap really should all be in no matter how the team defines the requirements. Ravens fans should always be see those names honored for the greatness they contributed to the franchise and city.

But as far as the others are concerned, the team will have to truly make difficult decisions.

Hear Stover’s press conference-including comments from Bisciotti, Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net! Stover joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Friday on AM1570 WNST, that chat is in the Audio Vault as well!

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