Super setup for Stover
Nearly 20 years apart, Matt Stover was a member of three separate Super Bowl teams. A decade after being a rookie who was on injured reserve for the New York Giants and nearly a decade before he was a 41-year old mid-season replacement for the Indianapolis Colts, Stover was a key member of the 2000 Ravens.
Stover, who retired after spending 10 games last season with the Colts, has memories of all three Super Bowls, but the one that stands out was the 2000 season and the run the Ravens made that culminated with their one-sided victory over the Giants in the Super Bowl in January 2001 in Tampa.
Stover kicked field goals of 47 and 34 yards to go along with four extra points.
It punctuated Stover's All-Pro performance that included making 35 of 39 field goals and all 30 of his extra points during the regular season.
"The kicking game was winning us games and keeping us in games because that's how our team was; you get a lot of gratification from that," Stover recalled recently.
Stover admits that his first Super Bowl experience, also in Tampa, while watching from the sidelines, helped him when he took the field for the Ravens against his former team.
"I was so young in my career, and I was kind of unobservant, but I did observe enough to where I knew the pressure of the game and the ramifications of the game," Stover said. "The thing I had to learn was by watching other players and how they handled it, and how the team orchestrated their practices … It allowed me to know how to prepare for the game mentally and emotionally."
Given the fact that the Ravens beat the Giants, 34-7, the assumption is that Stover didn't face a lot of pressure that day at Raymond James Stadium. Stover said that the magnitude of the event, not the competitiveness of the game, generates enough pressure for any player involved. Much of it happens long before kickoff.
"There are a lot of distractions, a lot of family issues, everybody is trying to come to the game, there's a lot of those peripheral things that people don't realize are there, that tends to wear on you too," Stover said.
Stover's final Super Bowl experience, with the Colts in their defeat last season to the New Orleans Saints, has helped keep the fire flickering. Stover said that his agent was recently approached by the Saints to be a short-term replacement for Garrett Hartley, but Stover turned them down.
Yet the memory of that final defeat, including a missed 50-yarder by Stover that led to the Saints' winning drive, keeps Stover practicing his craft in case of another call.
"It leaves that taste in your mouth of, "Dang, I want to get back'," Stover said. "I want another shot at this. We could have won that game. If another opportunity showed itself that was worth it, I would be willing to go back."
Dilfer still has questions
Trent Dilfer remains the only quarterback in NFL history who was not re-signed by his team after helping it win a Super Bowl. Then again, Dilfer is aware that many believe the Ravens won the Super Bowl despite his presence, which included completing 12 of 23 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown.
"It doesn't hurt me one bit. I giggle at it," said Dilfer, now an analyst for ESPN. "That's not a scar. I want Ray [Lewis] and Tony [Siragusa] to get the credit. I'm the first to say that's the greatest defense that has ever been on a football field. I played my part and I'm fine with this."
But Dilfer does believe he had something to do with the franchise's only Super Bowl victory and the run that preceded it.
"All I know is this and I said it after they decided to sign Elvis Grbac. Time will tell whether it was the right decision or not," said Dilfer. "All I know is that we were 5-4 when I took over [from Tony Banks] and we went 11-1 with me and we won a Super Bowl. It's simple math if you ask me."
A decade later, Dilfer said that he is not bitter, but admits he is still stunned when thinking about it why he only lasted one season in Baltimore.
"To not to resign there, I was so flabbergasted by the situation," Dilfer said. "To this day, I can't wrap my brain around how that decision was made."
Dilfer said that he played most of the year in Baltimore trying to overcome injuries he sustained the previous season in Tampa, and played the season "at about 65 percent" after sustaining a pelvic injury that made it difficult for him to stand up straight, A personality clash with Ravens coach Brian Billick didn't help.
"I know for a fact that Brian did not like my [strong] personality," Dilfer said."That's fine because I probably wouldn't if I was a coach that at the time."
Dilfer, who wound up playing with Seattle, Cleveland and San Francisco before retiring after the 2008 season, admits that he was hurt by the Ravens' decision to go with Grbac.
"I have a little compartment in my soul, I just stuck that one away so that the pain and the disappointment wouldn't affect me moving forward," he said. "I had to do it for self-preservation."
When Dilfer returned during the 2003 season he was Matt Hasselbeck's backup in Seattle.
"It wasn't an overly emotional situation," he recalled. "There was some anger that came out when I was there. I was aware of it enough not to let it affect me or my teammates. Some of them wanted to make a big deal of it but I didn't want it to be a distraction."
Dilfer said that he still uses his one season in Baltimore in other facets of his life, which includes running a charitable foundation for his late son, Trevin, who died in 2003 at age 5 from a heart disease.
"When you win a championship, there are a million things that you can talk about. When I look back at the last 10 years and the lessons I have learned that I have shared with others — how I view football, how I view team structure — came from my experience in Baltimore," he said..
"What struck me that year and since that year is when you get a group of people who believe in one cause, one philosophy. It's easy to read in book. It's easy to hear someone speak about it, but a lot of times we don't know what it looks like because we haven't experienced it. To go through it, to learn the lessons from it, have been invaluable to me."
'You can dream anything big'
Peter Boulware's memories of his eight seasons with the Ravens are mostly sweet, yet they are mixed with the painful reminders of the injuries he sustained and that eventually ended prematurely.
"I don't feel cheated. Naturally I wish I had not gotten hurt. I wish I would have played longer, but I played the amount of time I was supposed to play,' said Boulware, the team's No. 1 pick and the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft. " Fortunately during that time, I was able to win a Super Bowl, which a lot of guys can't say.
The sweetest memory, of course, is from the 2000 season, but that too had its difficult moments.
"We started that year we knew we had a good team, but I couldn't tell you winning the Super Bowl was definitely going to happen; a lot of things that year turned out right," Boulware said. "There was a time that season when we were really struggling. We lost a few games in a row. For some odd reason, we turned the season around.
"If I learned one thing that year is that you can start off one way and everyone gets on the same page, the ship can quickly turn around and you can dream anything big. I think that's what we did that year. We came together as a unit and we were tough to beat."
Boulware said that he has used what he learned playing football after he retired in 2006, first in a successful business career that includes owning a Toyota dealership in Tallahassee, where he played at Florida State, as well as a short-lived run for political office.
"What you're trying to do in a company setting, most athletes know how to work with a team. They know if we're going to be successful and we're going to win, it takes sacrifice. They know everyone has to play a role and has a responsibility to play. They value hard work," Boulware said. "Most athletes know when they lose, they pick themselves up and help the ship go back in the right direction."
That lesson was particularly helpful during Boulware's most public moment after retiring from football came when he ran — and lost — for the state legislature in 2007. After winning the Republican primary for a seat in the state legislature, Boulware ended up losing the election by 430 votes.
"I think it's about the same thing. In the political arena, you campaign and you work hard for a couple of years,' said Boulware. "You give everything you have for one day — one Election Day. If the votes don't go your way, all the work you've done it's really for nothing.
"There is a great correlation between politics and sports because as tough as it was after I lost, I felt because of my sports background I was able to pick myself up and use this as an experience to make myself better."