By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — It didn’t take Matt Stover very long to realize that his current team, the Indianapolis Colts, would be playing his old team, the Baltimore Ravens, in an AFC divisional playoff game this week.
“I didn’t know who we were going to get. Watching the game on Sunday and I saw the way they started out [in a 33-14 AFC wildcard round win over the New England Patriots] and I went ‘Wow, it looks like it’s going to be the Ravens,’” Stover said Wednesday as the Colts prepared for Saturday’s matchup.
Indianapolis will bring a 14-2 record and are the AFC’s top seeded team heading into Saturday night’s (8:15 p.m.) game at Lucas Oil Stadium with the 10-7 Ravens.
With Baltimore knocking off the Patriots, and the way they did it, brings back a lot of memories for Stover, who spent the last 13 seasons with the Ravens. Prior to that, he spent five years with the old Cleveland Browns, who eventually became the foundation of the current Ravens franchise.
“I was indifferent [to which ever team wound up playing the Colts] because this is the playoffs. Whoever you get is who you get. One of the things you try not to do is control things you can’t control. It happens to be the Baltimore Ravens at this point. Very good team, very capable of winning,” he said.
“So what we have to do is play Colts football, which I really believe we will. We’re hungry. We’re ready to go out there and really show this country what we’re about because we’ve got a great team here.”
The soon-to-be 42-year old kicker was not re-signed by Baltimore at the conclusion of the 2008 season. The Ravens’ loss has been Indianapolis’ gain. He has made all 33 of his extra point attempts and is nine-of-11 in field goal attempts since he joined the Colts on Oct. 14.
Stover was signed when starting placekicker Adam Vinatieri was sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Ironically, it was his 25-yard field goal with 7:02 remaining in the game provided Indianapolis with the winning margin in a 17-15 road win over Baltimore on Nov. 22 at M&T; Bank Stadium. Stover would love a chance to match that performance, or even better it, this week.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to be on this team and being able to go play those guys again. Lots of friends [on the Ravens roster]. But for those three hours [that] we’re playing, it’s about business and about the Colts winning that game,” he said.
But as much as Saturday night’s game is all about business, it will no doubt be tough for Stover to keep thoughts about his long career with Baltimore out of his mind.
He remains a beloved personality among Ravens fans, many of whom wanted the team to bring him back before the start of the current season and were calling for team officials to re-sign the Texas native in the weeks before he came to Indianapolis.
As for his ex-teammates in Baltimore, the bond remains strong.
“Oh sure. The [long] snapper, Matt Katula and I, of course, are great friends. [Holder] Sam Koch. And believe it or not, some defensive players and I get along real well. Especially No. 52 [middle linebacker Ray Lewis]. We get along real well with some of those guys. But you know that it all comes down to business for those three hours on Saturday,” Stover said.
“When I had signed [with Indianapolis] back in October, one of things I had prided myself to do is to kick this team all the way into the Super Bowl. And Coach [Jim] Caldwell has had enough faith in me to be able to do that. I’m very happy about it. Adam [Vinatieri] and I are still very close about it. We understand the situation and we want to win ballgames. That’s what it’s about between the two of us. To be in this situation, to be in a divisional playoff game, it’s exciting. I want nothing more to win it.”
• Repeat performance? — He had a game-winning field goal in his first appearance against the Ravens in his first appearance against his former team this year. Does he want to try for two in a row?
“There was seven minutes left. I didn’t know [that the kick would provide the eventual margin of victory]. But, yeah. I was figuring that they would kick a field goal and then we would have to come back and kick another one,” Stover said.
“You have to understand that it could come down to that. My pregame thought process is to be prepared to kick that game winner. So if it does come, you’re ready to do it. You never go into a game thinking that you’re not going to get it. I always go into every game thinking you’re going to have that opportunity to kick that game winner. And if it’s against the Ravens, so be it because it is business on Saturday.”
• Family ties — Stover’s wife, Debbie, and their three children — Jenna Lee, Jacob Matthew and Joe Mark — still reside in Baltimore. Despite the family’s long relationship with the Ravens franchise, everybody’s a Colts fan now.
“They [his kids] wore their Blue and White [jerseys] on Purple Day [in Baltimore] last Friday. So my family are Colts fans and rightfully so. This team has faith in me, committed to me and, God willing, I’m continuing to give a good product out there,” he said.
“During the course of the season, I believe we performed pretty well. Now it’s the postseason, a brand new season, and we’ll continue to kick this team into the Super Bowl.”
When the Colts and Ravens played in Baltimore earlier this season, many of the home team’s fans came to the game wearing Stover’s Ravens jersey. He’s not quite sure what to expect this weekend.
“I don’t know if they are going to have Stover jerseys on, but there’s going to be some Stover fans. I’ve still got quite a few guys. In fact, some people have called me and told me they’re going to be there. They’ll cheer for me but they’ll boo the rest of the team,” he joked.
“But that’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing the Indianapolis Colts fans being who they are. We really need a 12th man this week. I’m expecting some great things out of our fans.”
• Busy cell phone — Stover said that his cell phone kept ringing throughout Sunday’s Ravens-Patriots game. He was receiving calls and texts from friends and family, many still in Baltimore, with talk about this week’s matchup with the Colts.
“It was going on during the game. I’ve got a lot of good friends who are Ravens fans and they hit me with texts, ‘Looks like you guys are going to be playing the Ravens.’ And I hit them back, ‘Sure does and I’m excited about it,’” he said.
• Injury list — Everything looks good for the Colts, injury-wise, heading into this week’s game with Baltimore.
Offensive tackles Ryan Diem (elbow) and Charlie Johnson (foot) both practiced on Tuesday and figure to start against Baltimore. Also, defensive ends Dwight Freeney (abdomen), Robert Mathis (quad) and Keyunta Dawson (knee), along with wide receiver Pierre Garcon (hand/knee), appear to be ready for Saturday night’s game.
Neither team was required by the NFL to file an official injury report on Tuesday.
Broncos change mind, Turner to talk to Redskins — In an interesting turn of events, former Indiana State player and assistant football coach Bobby Turner has now been granted permission to talk with the Washington Redskins about a possible position on Mike Shanahan’s coaching staff.
Turner has been Denver’s running backs coach since 1995. According to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter and ProFootballTalk.com, the Broncos have reportedly changed their minds on the matter.
The former Sycamores running back and defensive back has now been granted permission to interview with Washington sometime this week.
Should he accept the job, Turner would be the Redskins’ associate head coach and work with the team’s running backs.