"There are a lot of people in the league who oppose expansion. Having the experience of moving, I would like to explore every possibility. I think we have to look at our own first before we look at expansion," Modell said.

He and Lerner are still friends. "But it doesn't have the intensity of friendship it once had. But it's not cold," Modell said.

Modell declined to discuss the reasons for their drifting apart. Lerner did not respond to requests for comment.

Mutual acquaintances say the two men were surprised by the outcry provoked by the Browns' move. Lerner, who played a crucial role in Modell's decision and was the initial go-between for Modell and Maryland, found himself in a place he generally shuns: the spotlight.

Lerner responded by trying to distance himself publicly from the decision. This angered Modell, according to friends.

As for his own legacy, Modell said it has unquestionably suffered in the controversy over the past year. In this, he finds irony: The popularity of the Browns and their relationship with Cleveland were due in part to his stewardship, he said.

"People will judge me as they judge me," he said.

But he holds out hope the rancor will fade.

He insists, as he has for the past year, that he was forced to move because community leaders failed to fulfill promises to renovate his decrepit stadium. Clevelanders say that they were making progress and that Modell never adequately informed them of his situation or that he was considering moving.

A referendum to fund part of the work passed the day after Modell announced he was moving the team. The league has agreed to kick in up to $48 million to help with the construction of a new stadium.

If he could do anything differently, Modell said, he would have pushed harder in 1991 for a firm commitment from Cleveland officials on his stadium before work began on new facilities for the American League Indians and NBA Cavaliers.

"The only regret that I have is that I shouldn't have taken them at their word in 1991. I took them at face value," he said.

He almost found himself in the same position in Maryland, after the NFL had approved the move. Stadium opponents in Annapolis pushed to rescind the deal.

"I was horrified. I had a binding agreement signed by the governor," Modell said.

The General Assembly was appeased when Modell agreed to contribute $24 million toward stadium construction. The terms of the repayment were not specified and won't be until a full lease is negotiated. That process probably will begin next summer.

Modell said he has been assured that he will receive some off-setting revenue source. That could be the right to sell the stadium's name to a corporate sponsor, he said.

"I have to have some revenue to pay for it. That's the understanding we have, some external signs, naming rights, something," Modell said.

Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag said that will be the subject of negotiations. "I owe him a real fair shake on that issue," Moag said.

Shortly after the stadium matter was settled, Modell, relaxing in his Florida vacation home, came down with the blood infection. He checked into a Florida branch of the Cleveland Clinic, a highly respected hospital he had helped raise funds for and had served as board president.

"I was gravely ill," said Modell, who has a history of heart disease going back a decade.