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Is the end near on Stover’s career in Baltimore?

There aren’t too many players in the young franchise of the Baltimore Ravens that you could consider to be icons of this organization. Players that you could immediately associate them with the colors of their team.

Jonathan Ogden is one. His hulking presence at left tackle opening up holes for the running game and he was the team’s first draft choice in 1996. Ray Lewis is another, chosen in that same draft. His determination and dance skills have been at the heart of Baltimore’s trademark defense for years. But the last one would have to be Matt Stover. The unassuming, mild mannered kicker who for so many seasons has been known as “Stover-Matic” from 40 yards or closer.

However, these icons are only human beings and no one outruns father time, no matter how hard they try. Matt Stover has had his struggles this season. Just look to last Sunday’s game with the Giants, as his blocked kick ricocheted back and gave the Giants great field position early in the contest. Certainly there was push on the line up the middle but Stover’skick landed around the defender’s armpit. It was a costly error that changed the momentum of the game.

Overall including the block he has missed five field goal attempts this season, which places his field goal percentage at 72, its lowest since 1998.

But being the beloved figure that he is the fan reaction has been mixed. Many applaud his body of work, which to say the least is impressive. He set an NFL record, kicking his 372nd consecutive point after touchdown this past week and currently ranks 5th all time in NFL scoring. For years as the Ravens offense was stuck in neutral, Stover was the only constant. Even during the championship year, Stover was the next most important offensive weapon aside from Jamal Lewis.

Aside from being an excellent player he is not “some jerk kicker”. His Matt Stover Foundation has raised thousands of dollars for the Johns Hopkins Children Center and many other local charities. He is a stand up guy and he hasn’t made any excuses for his recent struggles on the field.

“What do you do? There is no finger-pointing here. It’s all about me making a field goal.”

However, the Ravens will need to a take a close look at the Stover’s future at the conclusion of the season. The facts remain that his production has suffered. He is no longer used on kickoffs as young Steve Hauschka has taken over those duties. His range has suffered as well. From forty yards andin he remains excellent but beyond that he is suspect. Since 2005, he has been 28 for 51 from attempts of 40 yards or longer, that’s 54%. If the Ravens are to continue their playoff push and win what should be some tight games with a competitive remaining schedule, Stover will need to make some of those kicks.

Just look at Monday’s game between the Browns and Bills, the game was decided by the kickers and with where the winning and losing kicks were placed you have to ask if Stover could have made those.

Stover has had a brilliant career and he should be able to continue to work and try and straighten things out and for the team’s sake I hope he does. But if it is the end, there will be nothing to regret. He has been a great player and an even better person.


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