WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) -As the rest of the Baltimore Ravens ran through drills during a three-hour practice Tuesday morning, Matt Stover found a comfortable place in the shade and propped himself against a cooler.
After kicking for 19 years, Stover has earned the right to rest his valuable right leg until needed. Such a situation arose toward the end of practice, when coach John Harbaugh told the team that if Stover was successful on a 48-yard field-goal try, the afternoon session would be canceled.
The 40-year-old Stover drilled the football between the uprights, setting off a celebration that was no less spirited than if the Ravens had just won a game.
``I'm telling you, that ball was moving left outside the uprights. I was going to get what I wanted: practice this afternoon,'' Harbaugh said. ``But somebody bumped it back in. The magic of Matt Stover, I guess.''
Few kickers have worked that kind of magic longer or better than Stover, who broke into the NFL in 1990 and ranks second in NFL history with an 83.8 percent success rate on field goals. He may not be able to kick a 59-yarder anymore, but he can certainly be counted on to bang home a 48-yarder if it will save his teammates from suiting up for another couple hours.
``I think that was worse than kicking a game-winner, because you don't want to let your guys down,'' Stover said.
Stover doesn't spend a lot of time practicing because he wants to keep his leg fresh over the course of a 16-game season. So he will work when he has to, and watch from the sideline when it's appropriate.
He's been doing it that way for nearly two decades now, so who's going to argue?
``It's being efficient, doing quality more than quantity. And it's making sure that you're on top of your game and not just out there going through the motions,'' Stover said. ``You're making sure that mentally you're in every kick so that when it does come time to replicate something like what we did on the field today, or in a game, then I'm able to produce.''
The numbers back up his strategy. Stover ranks fourth in NFL history 1,822 points, holds the league record for consecutive games with a field goal (38) and has 13 game-winning field goals. He has also been the Ravens' leading scorer in every season since the team moved from Cleveland in 1996.
``He's proven over such a long period of time that he is one of the premier kickers in the history of the game,'' Harbaugh said. ``He makes field goals. His percentage and his accuracy - is anybody better?''
Stover is one of two place-kickers in camp, but in reality, Piotr Czech is on the roster merely to allow Stover to rest his leg during the second half of preseason games.
``There's always competition, whether or not you've been in training camp by yourself, which I have been several times, or with a guy like Piotr,'' Stover said. ``It's just a matter of me staying focused and getting ready for what I know I'm going to have to do (in the season opener) against Cincinnati.''
Stover began the process of getting ready for 2008 almost immediately after his final kick in 2007.
``Matt Stover never stops working. He is 100 percent committed to doing whatever it takes to get his job done right,'' said Sam Koch, Baltimore's punter and Stover's holder. ``He's always lifting, kicking and rehearsing. Then again, he watches what he does so he can save himself for when it does count.''
Stover never planned kicking for all this time. When he got out of college, he was just looking for a way to make a living.
``You just go one year at a time, and God willing, you end up making a career out of it,'' he said. ``Nineteen years, I guess you could say is a career, right? So it's been a good run.''
Notes: The Ravens signed free-agent fullback Lorenzo Neal, who was released by the San Diego Chargers in February. The 37-year-old Neal is a four-time Pro Bowler and a 15-year veteran. ``He's more than a lead blocker. He can catch the ball,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's the kind of guy we want on our football team.'' ... RB Willis McGahee underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Miami. ``They cleaned it up. It was less than what we thought it was, and it's getting healthy,'' Harbaugh said.

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