Sure enough, Dreith came out and Modell was fined by the NFL office.

These days, Modell is quieter, but that doesn't mean he has mellowed. His wife sits in front of him in the owners' box and the rule is no talking.

"Why do you think he has had a couple of heart attacks?" his wife said. "It was football."

His competitive nature is only rivaled by his comedy. He sees himself as a combination of Lombardi and Jack Benny.

"The tougher the situation," Newsome said, "the better his humor."

And it looked pretty bleak last year at this time. After his team went through its historic salary cap dismantling, Modell suffered a heart attack and a mild stroke in a three-month span that left him with blurred eyesight.

After watching his rag-tag players for the first time at training camp, Modell joked, "Right now, [my vision] might be a blessing."

Seeking Super finish

Humor is said to be a great medicine, but winning the Super Bowl is the best cure-all.

"As soon as we won that game against the Giants in Tampa, somebody mentioned `The Fumble' and `The Drive.' I said, `What fumble and what drive?' " Modell said. "You never forget those lows, but the high in Tampa wiped out everything else."

Modell is once again setting his sights high this season.

The Ravens return 21 of 22 starters from last season's 7-9 team. Plus, they have added two first-round draft picks (linebacker Terrell Suggs and quarterback Kyle Boller) along with free-agent offensive tackle Orlando Brown, receivers Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson and cornerback Corey Fuller.

"I don't know how much progress our competitors have made in the division or in the conference," Modell said, "but this Ravens team is better than the one I had in Tampa that won the Super Bowl."

The players acknowledge that Modell's final season places special meaning on the year.

"I hope we give him something that he'll remember," said kicker Matt Stover, who is playing his 13th season for Modell, the longest of any current Raven.

For a man who lives by his will and wit, it would only be fitting for the Ravens to send him out smiling.

"It's been a good run, I kid you not. It would be wonderful to cap it off on a high note," said Modell, flashing a wink. "I have a feeling. You can't take that away from me."