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In 2009, the writing was on the wall.
Despite a flourishing 13-year relationship between Mr. Dependable and the Baltimore Ravens, the two sides knew it was time to go on their separate ways.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Co. decided not to re-sign longtime kicker Matt Stover in favor of Steven Hauschka. And Stover, then a 19-year veteran, moved on to the Indianapolis Colts and eventually played his last game in the Super Bowl.
Both sides shared their memories of the reluctant split Thursday, when Stover officially retired as a Raven.
“I guess I have to look at it [in] two ways: I, myself, had to walk away from the game, and sometimes it’s a tough thing to do,” said Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end who retired in 1990. ”Sometimes you need someone else to be able to nudge you on the shoulder a little bit for you to make that decision.
“On the other hand, when that decision was made, we made it not only for 2009, we were hopefully making it for ’10, ’11, ’12 and ’13. When you add all of those things into it, it allowed us to make the decision. It was done in a way with Matt, with John [Harbaugh] right there being a part of it… It was a good separation.”
At first, the decision was less than favorable for the Ravens. Taking all the field goal and kickoff duties back then, Hauschka missed four field goals, including a game-winner against the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 before he was released midway through the season.
“It was really hard [to let Stover go]. It was especially hard when I saw kicks sailing wide left during the season,” said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. ”That’s when it got real tough. It was hard enough in the spring, but it got real hard in the fall. That just shows you the value of it.
“His leadership was missed, but his making field goals was really missed.”
Stover said he understood the Ravens were making positive change for the future by not re-signing him. He acknowledged he wasn’t performing well enough on kickoffs, forcing the team to give up two coveted roster spots to fill the job of one man.
“I have no issues, no animosity,” Stover said. “I get the business, I get it.”
Stover went on to kick for the Colts in 2009, hitting nine of 11 field goals and was a perfect 33-of-33 on extra point attempts.
There was a conflict of interest during his campaign, as well.
The Ravens played the Colts on Nov. 22, and the faith-driven Stover was praying that he wouldn’t have to kick a game-winner for Baltimore’s bitter rival.
“I hated kicking against the Ravens. Are you kidding me?” Stover said. ”That was the worst thing. But I had a job to do and I was signed by the Colts. I know that was the old team here, but it was very awesome that the community understood it.
“They didn’t necessarily like it, because they would never root for the Colts, but they understood what was going on. That to me meant a lot because the last thing I wanted to do was do something against Baltimore.”
In the end, things turned out well for both parties. While Hauschka didn’t work out in Baltimore, the Ravens are now in good hands with current kicker Billy Cundiff, who set an NFL record in touchbacks last season.
And, Stover, 42, became the oldest player to see action in the Super Bowl.
“All of you know I ended it down the road on I-70 [in Indianapolis], but that was a God-directed thing,” Stover said. ” It was strictly God telling me you’ve got some more work to do, and I’m going to let you in for the last game to ever be played, running out the tunnel at the Super Bowl.
“[After] 20 years, I’m good. I’m good. [I have] no regrets, and I gave it all I had, everything I had, and I can look back to that [and know] I tried everything I could to be the best I could be.”