BALTIMORE (AP) -The competition for the Baltimore Ravens place-kicking job is over. Matt Stover is the winner, by forfeit.
Former NFL Europa kicker Rhys Lloyd has encountered visa problems coming to the United States from overseas. Judging by the way Stover played Monday night in the Ravens' preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Lloyd might as well stay put.
Stover made all five of his field goal attempts and accounted for 17 points in Baltimore's 29-3 rout. If there was any lingering doubt about his range, the 39-year-old ended the discussion by making two 50-yarders with room to spare.
``The thing about kicking those long field goals is you have to be ready for it. You have to have that club in the bag,'' he said. ``I still went out there with a 7-iron.''
Stover has 18 years of NFL experience and is the lone holdover from Baltimore's move from Cleveland in 1996. There's no telling how long he will be suiting up before finally deciding there are better things to do than boot a football between two yellow poles.
``I'm inclined to believe Matt will kick as long as he wants to,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ``Matt is such a perfectionist, there will be a point when he will say, 'You know what? I just don't have the same pop, it's too much for me to keep myself in shape this way.' It will be Matt to decide when he's done kicking.''
That won't happen anytime soon. Asked if he still has a burning desire to compete, Stover replied, ``You have to. And if you don't, get out. I never take this thing for granted; I don't care (if) I have two years or 18 years in.''
Stover has plenty of natural ability, but his success is the product of hard work. He adheres to an intensive conditioning program during the offseason, and this summer he has practiced for countless hours with long snapper Matt Katula and holder Sam Koch.
``The amount of time he puts in, especially in the offseason, and the training he does, it doesn't surprise me how good he is. He works hard in practice on the fundamentals and details of kicking,'' Koch said. ``Still, it's amazing to me how a guy that's been in the league for 18 years still has the power that he does.''
Stover would welcome another kicker in camp, if for no other reason than it would enable him to rest his leg on kickoffs or in the second half of the last three preseason games. But true to form, he was quick to look at the positive side of doing all the kicking against the Eagles.
``We don't have (Lloyd) in, so I'm kicking all the way through. And you know what? That's pretty good,'' Stover said. ``Because that's the way the game is mentally. You have to train yourself to kick for four quarters.''
He's been kicking in the NFL for nearly half his life, so achieving the proper frame of mind shouldn't be an issue. Job security isn't a problem either, but Stover is taking nothing for granted as he looks ahead to Baltimore's season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 10.
``You're always competing for a job in the NFL. There's always someone out there to take your spot,'' he said. ``My big thing is getting ready for the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Today doesn't help tomorrow, so I have to continue to work to get better.''

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