Tag Archive | "stover"

Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

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Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

Posted on 28 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published on March 28, 2011, I think this is appropriate for where my life stands with #JennStrong & #BmorePositive mojo. nja)

Twenty-seven years ago today I awoke to see my father crying in my kitchen in Dundalk. It was one of two times that I ever saw him cry. The Baltimore Colts’ infamous ride of the Mayflowers out west on I-70 just two months after I started interning at The News American defined the end of my childhood at 15 and the beginning of my lifelong education about money and the real world of sports for the remainder of my sports fan and business life as a journalist.

It’s been a tumultuous quarter of a century plus a year for my feelings of anger, anguish, desperation, loss and bad vibes about the Colts leaving Baltimore on March 28, 1984. My Pop died in 1992 and never got to see the Ravens come back to town to avenge the loss of the horseshoe. I never got to go to one more football game with my father. And over the years, it’s really been a civic badge of honor to hate on all things Irsay and Indianapolis.

Nestor and Mini Bob

I’ve been to Indianapolis more times than I can count since 1996 – always for a football game or the annual March combine. There’s never been a time that it hasn’t taken me 15 minutes on the ground there to get ill seeing the horseshoes and “Go Colts” kind of marketing that is ubiquitous in Indy from the minute you land at the airport. It drives my wife batty — my almost irrational instant anger, ranting and self-inflicted torture when I’m in Indianapolis. I’ve always figured that I’d proudly be like the old dudes in Brooklyn, still pining away about the Dodgers 50 years later.

Here’s an example:

It’s taken me years of internal therapy and self soothing to calm myself when I see the game day experience there in Indy as those Midwestern hillbillies parade around in my father’s stolen laundry. In many ways, our “friend” Merton From Indianapolis (and no, none of us has any idea who he is or where the whole gimmick started – honest to God!) sort of exemplifies the entire experience of dealing with their fans when you travel to the “friendly heartland.”

My loathing of all things Irsay and Indianapolis is a bit legendary – there are plenty of pictures of me carrying Bob Irsay’s head on a stick through the streets of Indy — and my rants and raves throughout the 1990s are all very “on the record” and still accurate. What happened to this community at the hands of Bob Irsay and how I saw it affect my father and the psyche of the citizenry here will never been forgotten. The degrading and demoralizing “begging” to get back into the league that fell on Herb Belgrad. Paul Tagliabue’s “build a museum” expansion declaration in Chicago. All of it…I’ll remember those feelings and emotions for the rest of my life. Most Baltimoreans older than me — and I was born in 1968 – still can’t begin to imagine a world without the Colts of that generation. If you’re from Baltimore, sports is etched into your DNA.

(And if you doubt those feelings, imagine how you’d feel if the Ravens packed up and left tomorrow morning and never played another game here? For you young’ins that’s essentially what happened here in 1984…)

But after long and careful consideration – and as today’s 26th anniversary of the dastardly

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Your Monday Reality Check: Congrats kid, now don’t miss

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Your Monday Reality Check: Congrats kid, now don’t miss

Posted on 27 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

I probably should’ve saved a few hundred of the words I spent on last week’s missive about the Baltimore Ravens’ kicking competition.

Hey, at least I’m going to save you from a story about my 16th birthday party. (Although if you really want to know the details you can always feel free to email me. I always have stories.)

I’m glad our own Drew Forrester has taken the time to commend former K Billy Cundiff over and over again for how he handled himself after missing a crucial kick that cost the team a chance to send the AFC Championship Game to overtime. Drew has been right to point out that Cundiff could have made excuses, could have dodged reporters, could have gone into hiding and waited to hear his fate after an underwhelming season.

He didn’t do that. He manned up. It truly is commendable.

There’s a caveat to our praise however. The fact is that we all know that if Cundiff had made the kick and then given the Heisman to media members postgame we wouldn’t have batted an eye.

The fact is that the only thing any of us (rightly) care about was that in a situation where a team (and a city) counted on one player to do their job, the job wasn’t done.

We’ve been through this exercise repeatedly in the months since the Ravens fell just short of a Super Bowl return. I actually have no interest whatsoever in reliving that moment and determining what happened or who deserves blame. I’m just reminding everyone that while Drew is right to commend Billy Cundiff, there’s an obvious reason why such praise isn’t prevailing throughout Charm City to start the week.

I could not begin to tell you whether or not the Ravens made the right decision by releasing Cundiff Sunday and sticking with rookie K Justin Tucker for the 2012 season. I understand the reasoning behind the decision (I’m pretty sure I made a compelling argument for both specialists last Monday) and support the organization in making the move.

I also fought off the urge to headline this column “Good Tuck, kid” so I feel like I deserve a bit of credit here.

Tucker has a great opportunity to establish himself as an above average kicker for a franchise finally moving past the significant shadow of Matt Stover. Tucker has the opportunity to not just make crucial kicks for the Ravens in 2012, but perhaps also for future Ravens teams both competing for Super Bowl titles and (unfortunately) just trying to stay afloat in the AFC North.

Based on my early conversations with Tucker (the most recent of which-from last Wednesday’s episode of “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net-can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault), I have every reason to believe Tucker is aware of the opportunity in front of him. He seems like an intelligent young man with what we can already tell is an exceptionally capable leg.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Why isn’t everyone happy?

Posted on 12 January 2010 by Keith Melchior

Here it is two days after the Baltimore Ravens traveled north to Foxboro and crushed the New England Patriots in their first round playoff game and people are complaining about the team’s performance.

Why isn’t everyone happy?

The Ravens were there in week 4 and put up a valiant effort but fell 6 points shy of tying the game. A day after that loss, people wanted Mark Clayton’s head on a purple platter. Since that loss, the Ravens went 6-6 and struggled mightily to make the playoffs as a number 6 seed, meaning no home playoff games for the faithful in Baltimore.

Some say they backed into the playoffs. Some say they limped into the playoffs. Some even said they didn’t belong in the playoffs and would easily get bounced out by the Patriots. The 2009 Ravens fought long and hard and overcame injuries to key players to once again prove they belonged in the NFL ‘s version of March Madness.

Then the talk started. Joe Flacco was hurting and couldn’t move very well. Ed Reed missed games down the stretch with groin troubles. When you looked across the line at the Patriots, you see no Wes Welker, the NFL’s leading pass catcher, out with a torn ACL and MCL. Julian Edelman was taking his place. Wow… the Ravens may have a chance to actually win, even though the odds and mystique of the New England Patriots come playoff time were stacked against them.

In case you were out of the country and didn’t hear the news, the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro 33-14 and will advance to the divisional playoff round, with the winner playing for the AFC Championship. Yawnnn….been there, done that.

The Ravens set the tone with Ray Rice’s 83 yard scamper for the game’s first score not even 45 seconds into the game. On the Patriots first possession, Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Tom Brady (no flags THIS time) and the Ravens found the end zone again for a 14-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. That lead vaulted to 24-0 afer the first quarter and although the Patriots mounted a little bit of a charge, the game was clearly in hand.

Only problem was, Joe Flacco completed only 40% of his passes for 34 yards. That is a problem? No.That means the team was controlling the ground game and used Rice, McGahee, and McClain to pound the Patriots stunned defense for over 200 yards. Flacco’s 4 completions were huge though, with I believe all coming on 3rd down conversions. Yes, the Ravens offense looked eerily like the Dilfer-led Ravens in the 2000 playoffs, throwing for less than 125 yards while pounding the opposing defenses on the ground with the combination of Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis.

This week the Ravens will travel to see an old nemesis in the Indianapolis Colts. You remember the Colts, right? Yeah, those guys who wear uniforms similar to what we used to cheer for here in Baltimore some 26 plus years ago. It’s hard to believe the Colts have been in Indianapolis just a few years less than they were in Baltimore. The Colts came into the 2006 playoffs as the lower seed facing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium for the divisional. The Ravens came off the bye week and in the late Steve McNair’s worst game as a Raven, held Peyton Manning to 5 field goals but could only muster 2 Matt Stover field goals in a 15-6 loss that devastated this town and made us hate the Colt franchise even more than on March 24, 1984.

The talk is that there is no way the Ravens are going to march into Indianapolis and do to the Colts what they did against the Patriots. They beat a banged up New England team and  Tom Brady made un-Brady-like mistakes and pretty much handed the game over to the Ravens.  Last I looked, New England won the AFC East title and was 8-0 in the Brady era at home. Were the Ravens afraid? Hell no. “They went into the lions den screaming like a banshee and kicked the hell out of the lions.” If they do the same thing Saturday night they will find themselves, for the second straight year, playing for the AFC Championship. What a ride!!!  But waiting in the wings is the great Peyton Manning and the Colts. This one is hard to swallow.

I actually heard people expressing the opinions that they Ravens better play Troy Smith if Flacco is still  hurting. “Troy is our only hope because he can avoid Freeney and Mathis, plus he gives the offense a different look that maybe the Colts haven’t seen” Are you freaking kidding me? Troy Smith?  Look at his records. As a starter he is 1-1. That’s it. Although he has seen action in quite a few games the last 2 seasons, he only started 2 NFL games. Basically he is a rookie when it comes to taking snaps from center. Flacco has started 36 games in his first two seasons, 18 times as many as Smith. And people have the balls to say Troy Smith should be playing in Flacco’s place?  These people need to take the saliva test, as Charley Eckman used to say. 

So why isn’t everyone happy and enjoying yet another post-season run by the guys in purple? Because we’re playing the Colts? So what!! They weren’t afraid of the Patriots and they aren’t afraid of the Colts. We’ll see on Saturday night. I think this team will come to play and hopefully catch the Colts off guard and punch their ticket to the AFC Championship game in either San Diego or New York. Many are saying the Jets don’t stand a chance against the NFL’s hottest team, but do you think the Jets are afraid  of the Chargers?  Maybe about as afraid as they were against the Bengals. How’d that work out for them?

Hey Baltimore, the Ravens are one of 8 teams remaining in the quest for the Lombardi trophy and guess what else?  The hated Pittsburgh Steelers are nowhere to be found this time. Life is good here in Baltimore, unless you are the soon to be former Mayor, so get out and hug a fellow Ravens fan this week. Spread the love of the purple!!

Goooooooooo Raven!!!

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Lots of questions but not lots of answers for Ravens

Posted on 22 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

To say that frustration has fallen across the land here in Baltimore along with an early sunset would be an understatement. Today, once again, the sun continued to set on another season of Ravens football as the Ravens dropped their fifth game of the season as the Indianapolis Colts walked across the purple bird toward the visiting locker room as the winners in their former land of Baltimore.

Today, it is NOT the land of pleasant living.

After a 7th-consecutive disgusting loss for a fan base who built that horseshoe for the Irsay family before having it shoved up its civic backside in March 1984, there are many questions, but few answers the Ravens can provide beyond a disappointing 5-5 record.

Ed Reed and Ray Lewis didn’t even chat with the media. (Why Reed was trying to pitch the ball in that situation is just inexplicable — except that he’s been doing it for a decade, Brian Billick-be-damned!)

John Harbaugh had a rather terse “no comment”-style response in regard to this action.

I’m not a guy who’s ever looked for “goats” in losses. I’ve been around this game long enough to know that mistakes of the physical nature are usually deemed “acceptable.”

It’s pretty apparent that the Ravens have guys in the secondary who are physically over-matched or outrun at various points. That, in a way, is OK. They’re trying hard, doing their best, trying to get in a position to make a play. Domonique Foxworth, Frank Walker, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr — they’ve all had bad days and bad plays in these 10 games, but no one is confusing their results with their effort.

But the mental mistakes? Well, those are the ones that the coaches hate the most. In tennis, they’re called “unforced errors.”

Today, the Ravens made way too many mistakes in decision-making, and most of it came in the last few minutes of the game, opening the door for the Indianapolis Colts after spending much of the day on the all-too-rare “right side” of the Baltimore-Indianapolis 25-year karma.

The Ravens got several calls from the officials and a few good spots. Most of the “breaks” went their way vs. the Colts. They stripped the ball at the foot of the goal line to avert another Indy touchdown in the first half. They picked Peyton Manning twice early and played very, very well on defense all day, especially considering that they were playing the best quarterback on the planet with the fewest weapons and the worst secondary they’ve fielded during the lopsided rivalry.

But the holy trinity of mistakes — all by key members of the franchise — Flacco’s interception, Reed’s fumble and Harbaugh’s screwy use of the clock and the last, few precious timeouts put the Ravens with a full foot into the grave for the 2009 season with a 5-5 record. Only the late afternoon buffoonery of the Steelers losing to the Chiefs and the Bengals bungling a sure victory in Oakland could keep the Ravens off of complete life support. And that doesn’t factor in the relative mediocrity of teams like Miami and Denver, who have become the Ravens’ competition for a 9-7 playoff berth.

Harbaugh also has to accept the Ravens’ share of the responsibility for why Matt Stover was in a blue and white uniform today kicking winning field goals and the purple franchise is working on yet another kicker who missed a kick today in a game that was lost by two points.

So you think this game wasn’t won by the difference between Stover and Bill Cundiff?

Bad snap by Matt Katula not-withstanding, Stover made all of his tries, including the eventual game-winner with seven minutes remaining. Cundiff’s 30-yard near-whiff is the three points that would’ve won the game.

The kicking game has been the difference between being 7-3 and 5-5.

Period. Not a low blow, just a FACT!

So, just how big was the departure of Stover after all? And whose idea was all of this in the offseason?

For Harbaugh, the honeymoon with Charm City is on life support. The media are already agitated by his various peculiar idiosyncrasies and paranoid policies. And the Ravens are a breath away from elimination in 2009, which is probably just about what they’ve earned on the field with various degrees of poor play, poor preparation and lousy decision-making.

What the hell was Harbaugh thinking throwing that red flag after calling a timeout and not calling for a measurement? Honestly, that’s not a leader under fire in the NFL, that’s amateur hour! If that were any other coach blowing it on the other sideline, that’s exactly what we’d call it.

And, factor in the inevitable aging of a less-than-youthful roster and the injuries to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap, Haloti Ngata and Brendon Ayanbadejo and you’ve got a recipe for under-achieving that falls far outside of just Harbaugh’s deficiencies. When injuries happen, teams don’t make the playoffs. You can check the track record on that.

You get the feeling that it’s just not meant to be for the Ravens of 2009.

Oh, and it’s Steeler Week here in the former land of pleasant living.

The Purple Haze is on at 7 p.m. tonight (and every Sunday night). Looking forward to chatting about the Ravens’ precarious situation in the NFL cosmos…

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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“Colt” Matt Stover reaches out to WNST and Ravens fans

Posted on 15 October 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Matt Stover and I have been trading texts and phone calls for months. People asked me almost daily, “What’s happening with Matt?”

Today, he spent about 20 minutes with Bob Haynie and you can hear the entire episode here in the audio vault. It was a sensational interview by Haynie and I hope you check it out!

For the record, Stover has become one of my favorite all-time Ravens, even though we’ve never been publicly linked because he wasn’t a frequent visitor on my show throughout the years.

Even though I don’t think I’ve done five “on the record” conversations with him in nearly 15 years, No. 3 was always “go to” guy in the clubhouse literally since the nanosecond the team arrived from Cleveland in 1996. I always love to tell the story of the “altercation” we had in the Memorial Stadium locker room after the first game against Oakland. I was wearing a hardhat with the flying B logo. He chastised me. I introduced myself. We came to terms and and it’s been “all good” ever since.

Stover is a rock star of a great guy. A community, family and biblical guy. Always very straightforward and honest, I have immense respect for him even if I don’t always agree with him. He’s truly a man of integrity and a guy I always enjoy spending time and talking about the world with him.

We hugged in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium back on Jan. 28, 2001. We have many mutual friends around the city. His family and mine were on a mutual flight out of New Orleans the morning of the evacuation of Hurrican Katrina.

So, when the whispers of him signing elsewhere started to erupt a few weeks ago – first Cleveland, then the New York Giants – people were peppering me with questions about his intentions.

It was always pretty clear: Stover never wanted to leave the Ravens. The Ravens made it clear, though, that they were done with Stover.

Yesterday, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. He text me right away to tell me of his decision.

Today, he called me and wanted to speak to the people of Baltimore, who he’s very concerned will see him as a traitor for even considering putting on the blue horseshoe and potentially kicking a game-winner against our beloved Ravens on Nov. 22.

In his conversation with Haynie, he was very, very forthright about his love of Baltimore and his intentions to live here for a long time while his kids go to school here.

Honestly, that game in six weeks at M&T Bank Stadium could still play out with an immense amount of drama or a kick to win the game on national TV, but for now, Stover is back to being employed in the NFL and he’s drawn the enviable position of kicking for an undefeated team with Super Bowl hopes that are quite realistic with Peyton Manning at the helm.

Strangely enough, this is the second time Stover has been put in an emotional city vs. city position.

Remember: he’s the guy who went back to Cleveland every year for 10 falls with a purple jersey and a B on his helmet. As he said today, the people of Cleveland still scream all sorts of things at him, which is no surprise if you’ve ever worn the color purple on the shores of the Cuyahoga.

I’ll say publicly here in the blog what I said to him this morning.

“Good luck. I love you and wish you well. But the Colts, hey, you’ll never get me to wish the Colts well…”

That’s out of the realm of possibility for me. Out of respect for my Pop, of course.

But I do hope Stover fares well…except on Nov. 22 of course!

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Replacing Matt Stover

Posted on 31 August 2009 by quinn1047

Not since Brooks Robinson retired has a Baltimore Sports figure’s legend grew the longer he was away from the game.  While frequently referred to as “auto-Matt-ic,” Stover was good but not perfect. He started last season missing a couple field goals and people were saying he had finally lost it. He rebounded and had another wonderful season. While we should be extremely grateful, we need to realize that it is time to replace him.

Steve Hauschka needs to be the Ravens kicker this season. The pining for Stover needs to end. We can’t afford to treat Hauschka like we did Doug DeCinces when he replaced Brooks at third. How many balls did DeCinces not get to that Baltimore fans immediately exclaimed “Brooks would have had that one.”? Too many. Are we going to do the same thing anytime any field goal kicker misses a field goal the next couple of season?

It is time to move on from Stover and give the job to young kicker like Steve Hauschka. The Ravens must commit to that kicker so he isn’t looking over his should to see if the Ravens front office or coaching staff is on the phone with Stover.

Stover was wonderful. It is time to move on.

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Not Auto-Matt-ic: Paging Stover…Matt Stover!

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Not Auto-Matt-ic: Paging Stover…Matt Stover!

Posted on 31 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just in case you’re wondering, the Ravens have NOT contacted Matt Stover about their kicking needs for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13. Not yet, anyway.

But, of course, there are more than just a few people around the Charm City who think that might not be a bad idea.

And the team is led by head coach John Harbaugh, who spent his entire existence in the world of special teams and kickers and punters. This has to perturb Harbaugh more than most coaches.

The kicking game and life in the NFL is a strange one. Here is this macho game played by the biggest, fastest and toughest guys in our culture and along comes a little kicker with it all on the line to win the game on his foot and the 40 yards between the line of scrimmage and goal posts.

It’s not a cruel joke or coincidence as much as it’s weekly reality in the NFL.


After he made the game-winning kick in Tennessee last January, the Ravens jettisoned Matt Stover for three reasons, really:

1. He wasn’t their best bet on kickoffs, which forced them to carry an extra man on the roster
2. He cost them a lot of money (more than $1 million per year) as opposed to a rookie who’d earn 40% of that
3. He wasn’t getting any younger and his distances seemed to get shorter each year, even if he was considered “automatic” inside of 45 yards

Now, with just this lame preseason finale in Atlanta awaiting on Thursday, the Ravens appear to have two young kickers but no one that they can truly trust with big games on the line.

Both Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka have managed to both do something that Stover never did in 14 years in a purple helmet: they’ve manged to make us actually think about the kicking game.

Stover was so automatic, so universally forgotten about that his presence was a bit of a security blanket. Like Ray Lewis has been at middle linebacker. Like Jon Ogden was for many years at the left tackle spot.

Think about all of the kicks Stover made over the years. How many of them do you really remember?

Sure he missed a few biggies – one in the AFC Championship Game in Oakland back in 2001 as I recall. His most memorable miss is almost certainly the 0-13 Miami 2007 “gimme” that contributed to Brian Billick’s ouster as head coach.

But he just came in, made the kick, praised Jesus and ran back to the bench.

Well, over the last three preseason games, not only have we witnessed the competition drama of these two nice young men trying to fill the shoes of a “once a generation” kicker, but we’ve had the “hold our breath” drama over whether the three points is actually going up on the scoreboard on something most Ravens fans have viewed as “Auto-Matt-ic”.

Neither one of them is stepping up even remotely to the level of confidence we had with Matt Stover.

So, will the Ravens call Matt Stover?

Probably not. (For all of the same reasons they had eight months ago.)

Will the Ravens regret not calling Matt Stover?

Only time will tell.

But Stover is available, in shape and waiting by the phone. (For the record, I hear he’s enjoying his first August off in 24 years…)

And if I know that much, you can bet that Ozzie Newsome can’t be too far away.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

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Live from Brawl-minster: Ravens get chippy in heat, Harbs cancels p.m. practice

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Luke Jones

1:47 p.m. — As fans continue to wonder about the status of Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle, Harbaugh is not providing much clarity on either player.

“No, nothing really new on that.  They’re both just rehabbing, and that’s where we’re at.”

Suggs injured his heel on Sunday, and Rolle is the only player remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

1:41 p.m. — Harbaugh did not seem upset nor surprised with the morning practice skirmish.  He simply reiterated his preference for the battles in between the whistles.

“We’ve had a lot of scuffles before the whistle gets blown, I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.  “Those are the scuffles we’re most interested in.  The other ones are irrelevant.  We don’t mind them.  We don’t want them.  We don’t not want them.  We don’t care about them.  The ones before the whistle gets blown—those are the ones that matter.  Our guys have had plenty of those.”

Here are Harbaugh’s comments on the Michael Oher calf situation:

“It doesn’t look serious.  He pinched it, as Bill [Tessendorf] put [the injury report] in there.  It may be a little bit of a calf sprain.  It will be a rehab issue for a little while.”

12:32 p.m. — A few reminders if you’re planning on heading out to Westminster in the next few days.

This afternoon’s practice has been cancelled.  The next practice will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 p.m.  It is open to the public.

Monday morning’s practice is CLOSED to the general public.  The team will have an open practice at 2:45 p.m.

Monday morning’s practice will be open to the media, so WNST.net will have all of the Ravens updates you want and need.

12:30 p.m. — Brendon Ayanbadejo was working out on the other field during practice.  He’s still recovering from a sprained toe.

Suggs walked out to the field for the final moments of practice, wearing sneakers and still limping slightly.

12:27 p.m. — We saw our daily long touchdown to Justin Harper this morning, as Troy Smith threw a deep one to the second-year receiver.  Harper beat Evan Oglesby on the play.

While Harbaugh is pleased with Harper’s ability to stretch the field, he still wants more consistency out of the 6-3 receiver.  He wants Harper to make the tough catches in traffic, an area in which he’s struggled.

12:24 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show great moves in the open field.  This morning, Rice caught a pass in the flat and put a tremendous move on Jason Phillips, leaving the rookie in the dust.  Rice continues to get the majority of the first-team reps at running back, but McGahee is still right behind him.

McGahee was seen with an ice pack on his left knee yesterday morning, but he was back out there today with no apparent problems.

12:21 p.m. — Tight end L.J. Smith appears to be finding his way in the Ravens’ offense.  He caught several passes today and seems to be regaining his speed after tweaking a hamstring at the beginning of training camp.

If healthy, Heap and Smith have the potential to be a pretty formidable duo at tight end, a major help to Flacco with the uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

12:16 p.m. — As previously reported, it was an ugly day offensively.  Dropped passes and interceptions were the story of the morning before the big fight.  In addition to Walker, Chris Carr also picked off Flacco.

Despite the rough morning, Flacco did have some nice throws including a nice 17-yard out pattern to Marcus Smith (who was playing Mason’s position with the starting offense) and a long, beautiful touchdown to Smith later in practice.  Considering Smith has had a quiet starting to training camp, it was good for him to make some plays this morning.

12:14 p.m. — Cornerback Frank Walker had another good day, breaking up several passes and picking off Joe Flacco during 11-on-11 drills.  Walker is the most physical corner on the roster and has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage, unlike most of the Ravens’ cover corners.

12:09 p.m. — It was an “over 30″ day off for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Matt Birk.

Harbaugh gave a few injury updates after practice.  Oniel Cousins sustained a sprained left ankle, but the head coach said he should return soon.  Terrell Suggs (heel) and Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck) continue to rehab their respective injuries, but Harbaugh did not update when the two will return.

Oher suffered a right calf strain or “pinch” as Harbaugh described it.  The coach did not seem concerned about the injury, but Oher did not return to practice.

12:03 p.m. — It was a difficult day for Gano, but his morning ended in triumph.  After missing kicks from 35, 48, and 53 yards, Gano had a 36-yard attempt with the afternoon off riding on it.  The rookie kicker hit it, and Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice to reward his team for all of its hard work.

Gano’s leg was tired today, according to Harbaugh.  He came up short from 53 yards, a distance he had easily been making throughout training camp.

Gano did make field goals from 43, 47, and 51 in addition to his 36-yarder at the end of practice.

10:49 a.m. — John Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice today in his post-practice comments. More to come…

10:38 a.m. — Well, we had our first skirmish/melee of training camp in the heat this morning as the offense and defense knocked heads in a team-wide shove-around (apparently started by Paul Kruger and Joe Reitz) with various players involved, including Chris Chester, Jameel McClain & Jared Gaither. It’s hard to say what caused it, but the defense was shoving the offense around pretty good for the second day in a row.

Other morning notes: Michael Oher had a right calf cramp and left practice early. In general, the offense was sloppy and unproductive through much of the morning practice, in front of the usual large weekend crowd here in Westminster. Lots of dropped passes and interceptions.

Perhaps the fight helped matters. After the mini-brawl, the offense looked more focused and was more productive.

Tavares Gooden got limited reps early but didn’t participate later in practice. Jared Gaither was back and took plenty of live reps.

Graham Gano struggled early in the practice (plenty were talking about Matt Stover) but he hit a 36-yarder to end the morning session.

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Draft Grade For The Ravens

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

Immediately following the draft I thought the Ravens did a poor job, and I was very upset with their effort for several reasons.  First I thought that Ozzie was swindled out of a fifth round pick when he traded up three spots to draft Michael Oher.  He gave up a 5th round pick to move up from 26 to 23 when the Eagles only gave up a 6th round pick to move up from 21 to 19.  The Eagles selected Jeremy Maclin, who could be a steal considering his appearance among the top 10 in most mock drafts.  According to the NFL draft pick value chart Ozzie gave up 700 pts. (pick 26) and 27.6 pts. (pick 162) for 760 pts. (pick 23) for a total gain of 32.4 pts.  While Tom Heckert the Eagles’ GM gained a total of 60.6 pts. when he traded the 21st pick (800 pts.) and 195th pick (14.4 pts.) to get the 19th pick (875 pts.).  This obvious discrepancy had me miffed for a while.  I also had wanted them to trade down to the second round to get more picks a la the Patriots (who I thought had one of the best drafts) because the best value was clearly in the top half of that round. 

 

 In the second round the Ravens selected Paul Kruger DE out of Utah.  I think he is an undersized DE for the NFL (6’4” 263 lbs.) and it appears as if he is a project due to his lack of elite speed (5 sec. 40) and elite strength (24 reps at 225).  His selection was a surprise to me considering he is going to be a 23 year old rookie with only two years of college experience (in the Mountain West).  Kruger has some character concerns having been severely stabbed at a house party last year, one to which the cops were called for other infractions only to find out about the stabbing after they arrived.  Kruger also has only one kidney having lost his due to a car accident as a child which could present significant health concerns in the future.  I thought the Ravens should have traded down to acquire more picks or possibly selected Jarron Gilbert who at 6’5” and 288 lbs. is bigger, stronger, and faster than Kruger although he is a project as well coming out of a weak football conference (WAC) too.

 

 The Ravens’ 3rd round selection had me puzzled to say the least.  Lardarius Webb is from a non-FBS school in Nicholls State and he is considered a tweener, which means that the Ravens have to basically create a position for him as he lacks the ideal size-speed ratio to play corner or safety in the NFL.  He too has character concerns which caused him to be dismissed from Southern Miss.  One would have thought the Ravens learned their lesson on lightly regarded defensive back prospects from small schools with the recent failure of David Pittman whom they selected in the third round of the 2006 draft.  My first thought was that the brain trust is more eager to prove they can successfully draft a small school DB than to make a sound third round choice.  Typically the Ravens do extremely well in the first round and later rounds (4-7), but they more often than not select busts in the second and third rounds.  D.J. Moore was still available and had a better grade according to the experts on ESPN and the NFL network as well as more production at a higher level in college.

 

 I was also surprised that the Ravens did not select a kicker in the draft considering they let Matt Stover go in the off-season.  The selection of Davon Drew was the most perplexing potential blunder because James Casey and Cornelius Ingram, players with superior measureables and production, were still on the board.  For all of these reasons I would have given the Ravens a C on Sunday night, but after a day or so I have tried to reexamine the Ravens’ effort. 

 

 Upon further review I think the Ravens did an adequate job.  Their best decision by far was to trade up to select Michael Oher, although I still think they gave up too much when compared to the Eagles deal; however New England is a shrewder trading partner than the new Browns’ front office (Mankok) so one may have to expect they would ask more in a trade.  Oher has the potential to be a rock at right tackle for years, and if he pans out he will solidify a very young and talented offensive line for the foreseeable future.  He was rated higher than 23rd on many teams’ draft boards and I saw him in the top ten in several mock drafts so they got tremendous value with his selection.

 

Kruger is still a toss-up to me but when I listened to Eric DeCosta described him on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester I had a better feeling about him.  I suppose he is a high motor guy in the mold of Michael McCrary but he still needs to gain size to be effective on the end.  His age and injury history are also concerns.  The Ravens should have moved back from the second round at that point to grab a different pass rusher such as Gilbert, Michael Johnson, or Lawrence Sidbury.  http://www.ksl.com/?nid=635&sid=6285559&autostart=y  I am still not impressed with Webb having further investigated him although Mel Kiper likened him to Bob Sanders.  If he can play as effectively as Sanders then he would be a steal but I think the David Pittman scenario is more likely.  The selection of Davon Drew still has me scratching my head in light of the talent still on the board.  Eric DeCosta mentioned in his interview that several players did not pass the Ravens’ physical so I can only hope he was explaining the reason for not taking Casey or Ingram.  If nothing else the Ravens added to their depth at DB, rush linebacker/DE, and TE.  Davon Drew could provide insurance if Quinn Sypniewski cannot recover properly from his season ending injury of last year.  http://beta.sling.com/video/show/136305/12/Draft-Prospect:-TE–Davon-Drew  Jason Phillips was a very good value pick in the fifth round as he was extremely productive for a very good defensive football team.  He should help fill the void left by the departure of Bart Scott, although he is probably a rotational player at best.  Phillips is recovering from a meniscus tear he suffered at the combine.   

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2Q6JJX8uQ8[/youtube]

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzUMGSHarG4[/youtube]

 

I really think the steal of the Ravens’ draft has to be Cedric Peerman.  Peerman had a very good season for a terrible Virginia team last year, he is also said to be one of Al Groh’s favorite players and a high character guy.  He has some injury concerns but is a tough runner who had the fastest 40 time at the combine of any RB.  I think even with the Ravens’ depth at RB he will make the team.  The Ravens’ draft has been made stronger by their additions of rookie free agents. http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4853302/12935650

 

 

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dNr0XBIADE[/youtube]

 

Their signing of Eron Riley is particularly intriguing because he has very similar measurables to Heyward-Bey, as he is taller (6’3” compared to 6’1 5/8”) and almost as fast with a 4.3 second 40 time.  Riley does need to add bulk and gain strength, but he also had more receptions (61 to 42) and TD’s (8 to 5) than Heyward-Bey last year on an arguably worse football team in the same conference.  The second excellent pick-up was obviously Graham Gano as the reining Lou Groza award winner he lead the nation in field goals per game (2.18) as well as leading all kickers in points per game (9.5), and his 5 made field goals from beyond 50 yards were the most last year.  He will compete with Steve Hauschka to be the starting kicker; however he could also serve as a backup punter having also punted for Florida State last year.  He is believed to be the only punter ever to be named the MVP of a bowl game when he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Champs Sports Bowl.  http://rivals.yahoo.com/video/recruiting-football/Graham-Gano-Cantonment-28523  http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4853301/12935654  

 

 

The Ravens were able to address their needs for a place kicker and a speedy wideout through free agency so in retrospect I think the Ravens earned a solid B from me.  They traded up to get Michael Oher which was a fantastic move and they were still able to recoup another pick.  I know that the Ravens’ front office has far more experience scouting and selecting players than I do but if you are still reading this blog than you care about my opinion as well, plus the draft is so much fun because of the debate it creates.  As always only time will tell how the Ravens fared in this year’s draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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