Stover Returns to Baltimore

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After 19 years with the Ravens franchise, dating back to its time in Cleveland, Matt Stover fashioned himself into a Baltimore icon as a clutch kicker and an involved part of the community.

That is why both the Ravens and Stover expect there to be some awkwardness when the Indianapolis Colts come to M&T Bank Stadium. There might be some purple and black Stover jerseys in the stands, but the familiar No. 3 will be kicking in blue and white.

When the Ravens decided not to bring Stover back for a 20th season and hang their kicking hopes on Steve Hauschka, there was a palpable feeling of breakup for the city and team.

Now, Hauschka is gone after missing several important field goals in his first season as a full-time kicker. Billy Cundiff is the Ravens' newest addition, having signed on Wednesday.

And Stover, who connected on all six field goals this year, is working for the team that burned Charm City so many years ago.

"It'll be strange to be on the other sideline to say the least," Stover told Indianapolis media. "It will be fun because what a great organization to go back to the fans that I've come to know and love. Good people there. My family's still in Baltimore, but, hey, let's go win this game for the Colts."

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Stover's teammate since 1996, agreed.

"Weird," said Lewis. "You're talking about 13 years of a guy that I would still say to this day, is one of the better men that I've ever been around in my life. Just to brain-wrestle the way we did, being the man of God that he is, and just listening to him at times – even when he was in the crunch times of those big kicks – I would just walk by and say, 'Just do you,' and he would still be doing him."

On the field, Stover is nearly peerless.

He is currently the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 83.9 percent success rate, converting 468 of 558 field goals.

Stover has made the most field goals since the Ravens moved to Baltimore in 1996, having hit 360 career attempts. Many of those came at a time when the Ravens' offense struggled and Stover was the main scorer.

The Colts are learning about Stover's excellence with his perfect record this year and a recent game-winning extra point in a 35-34 win over the New England Patriots.

Cundiff, who recently played for the Cleveland Browns with former Ravens punter Dave Zastudil, knows he has large cleats to fill.

"He was able to tell me a little bit about what Matt was able to accomplish here, and he did a lot of really good things," Cundiff said. "I think it's good because if you have the bar set really high, then you obviously have got to raise your game to make sure you meet that bar. If you're not willing to accept that challenge, then you're in the wrong business because this is a very pressure-filled business, and you've got to enjoy it."

The Ravens actually thought of bringing Stover back when Hauschka began to falter, beginning with a 41-yard miss in the season opener, but the Colts added him in Week 6 because Adam Vinatieri sustained a knee injury.

Had that been the case, Hauschka still might be on the roster because the Ravens would have to keep a kickoff specialist in light of Stover's diminished leg strength.

The extra roster spot retaining both kickers would require was one of the reasons Baltimore let Stover leave.

"Any time that you have a chance to carry one kicker you'd rather do that, because you save a roster spot," explained head coach John Harbaugh. "And, that's been our position all along. You want to do that. But we're not opposed to carrying two kickers. We're not opposed to carrying two kickers now if that becomes the situation. We haven't been opposed to it all year.

"We were unable to get Matt re-signed the way we wanted to. All the contract stuff, the negotiation stuff, the business stuff – that's not something that we talk about here.

Looking back, it could have been Stover making the game-winning 44-yard field goal that Hauschka hooked in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Instead, heads dropped on the Baltimore sideline as Haushcka's attempt sailed outside the left upright.

"If we could have Matt here, we would have Matt here," Harbaugh said. "You look early in the season when it was realistic to have had him here, like say after the first game? Sure. I'm not sure what week he signed with the Colts, but that's when Steve was still kicking pretty well. Hindsight? Yeah. But that's hindsight."

Stover harbors no ill will towards the Ravens for not keeping him.

"No bitter feelings," Stover admitted. "I've been around too long not to understand this business. When a team's ready to move on, they're ready to move on. Wish you could change their mind sometimes, but you can't. Thank goodness the Colts came calling."

If Indianapolis releases Stover when Vinatieri does eventually return, however, there is a chance Stover could again become a Raven.

Kicking against and for the same team in a single season? Stranger things have happened.

"To see Matt on the other side, it will be weird," said wideout Derrick Mason. "But hey, it's been long enough where you kind of put it to the back of your mind and do the job that you have to do. I know for Matt it will be special. Hopefully he won't kick a game-winning field goal. I might have to go out there and trip him or something."

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