"Yeah, it hurt," Modell said. "They [the politicians] lied to me. They sold me out. They took for granted that Art Modell would never move the team.

"I have no regrets about moving. I'm sorry I hurt people in the process."

Modell has yet to set foot back in Cleveland, which city politicians say is his fault and not theirs.

Michael R. White, Cleveland's mayor at the time said, "The only person who drove Art Modell out of Cleveland is Art Modell in a great big moving van."

Giants owner Wellington Mara supported Modell, a longtime friend, in his move, saying any reasonable person would agree he got a bad deal in Cleveland.

"The trouble is they directed the wrath at the victim rather than the spoiler who drove him out of town," Mara said. "In all fairness, he left behind more than the city of Cleveland gave him the whole time he was there."

Elusive Hall of Fame

Nothing would make Modell happier than to return to the Cleveland area, specifically the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"It would be nice to get into the Hall, but I have no control over the process," Modell said. "I know [Raiders owner] Al Davis is in and he moved the team twice. Doesn't that say something to you?"

In January 2002, Modell was among 15 finalists for the first time but was passed over after being one of the most heated topics of debate. Although he failed to repeat as a finalist six months ago, he is expected to return as a nominee this year.

"I believe that in the near future his entire record should be recognized as entitling him to be in the Hall of Fame in Canton," Tagliabue said.

Among Modell's major accomplishments were his working as chairman of the league's television committee for 31 years, his lobbying other owners in the 1960s to share television revenues and his willingness to move the Browns to the AFC when the AFL-NFL merger took place.

He's also been a leader on diversity by promoting minorities to key positions in his front office and elevated Newsome to be the first black general manager in NFL history earlier this year.

"I think people who were close to the operation of the league appreciate what he has done," Mara said. "It has been clouded by the bad taste from Cleveland."

Intensity and humor

For all of Modell's charisma, he can't find anyone to sit with him during games.

"I was advised not to do it by the people who had the job before me," Ozzie Newsome said.

Said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney: "I used to sit with him, but I told him that I can't anymore because you're too wild."

Two decades ago in Pittsburgh, Modell became so incensed about one of his players being ejected and poor officiating that he banged on the door outside the officials' room after the game. Referee Ben Dreith answered, "Art, you know you can't come in here or it will cost you $10,000."

Modell hesitated for a moment and said, "Will you come out for $5,000?"