As the vice president of administration and finance at McDaniel College, Ethan Seidel negotiates a variety of contracts. He learned long ago that no matter how promising things look, there is always reason for a little angst until signatures have been put to paper.
So even as Seidel continues to have conversations with the Ravens about keeping the Westminster school as the team's long-term training camp home, an agreement has yet to be reached between the two sides, and each passing day allows for more anxiety.
"Until you have a signed contract, that's the reality," Seidel said earlier this week. "I think we all feel good about it. We have been having really good discussions, but I think we all want to get it signed. I think both sides [do]. It's just a question of getting all the details worked out. "
McDaniel had been the Ravens training camp home for the previous 15 summers after the team relocated here from Cleveland. However, the seven-year contract between the two sides expired after the 2010 season, and due to the shortened training camp brought on by the extended NFL lockout this past summer, the Ravens opted to prepare for this season at the team's complex in Owings Mills.
When the Ravens announced that decision in June, they said it was their intention to return to McDaniel for 2012 NFL training camp and beyond. But the fact that an agreement has yet to be reached has led to some outside speculation that the Ravens could choose to keep their training camp in Owings Mills, whether it's at their own complex or the new multi-million football facility built at nearby Stevenson University.
John Buettner, the assistant vice president of public relations at Stevenson, said in an e-mail that the school "has not has any formal talks with the Ravens regrading hosting their training camps. We understand, of course, that our close proximity to the Ravens' 'Castle' as well as the first-class facilities that we have built spark a lot of public speculation and some wishful thinking. But at this time, no formal discussions have been held."
Ravens officials say that they are focused on this season and a decision won't be reached on next year's training camp for a couple of weeks.
"We are busy with the season and we are still working on finalizing our plans for the 2012 summer training camp," said Ravens President Dick Cass. "We hope to have a decision before the end of the year."
Cass didn't want to comment any further with negotiations between the team and McDaniel ongoing. Seidel said that he was in touch with Ravens Vice President of Operations Bob Eller within the past week, and he's been given no indication that the team has changed its stance about its desire to remain in Westminster for training camp.
"I think the problem last summer was the lockout ended so late. The logistics were just too difficult to turn all that around and move everything up here. Now that we have time to put things together, I think we're back on the same footing than we were before," Seidel said. "It's really hard during the season for them with all the travel and everything else going on. We keep in touch, we keep talking, but it's hard to have intense conversations. We've met as recently as this week and we'll continue to talk. We're basically working on the details. There are not any big impediments or anything like that."
When the 2011 training camp was moved to Owings Mills, Westminster officials estimated that its loss would have more than a $2 million economic impact on the city and local merchants. During the summer of 2010, McDaniel drew an estimated 112,000 fans to Ravens' practices. The Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, which is adjacent to the college, has filled all of its 101 rooms during the four weeks of Ravens' training camp. But the hotel, along with local restaurants, suffered this past summer when the Ravens decided to stay in Owings Mills.
Ravens' fans also were affected as they were unable to attend training camp practices. The team's agreement with Baltimore County does not allow for fans to take in practice at the Owings Mills facility and the complex doesn't have enough available parking spots and the surrounding roads couldn't handle the volume of traffic that training camp traditionally generates. The Ravens did have an open practice for their fans at M&T Bank Stadium.
But from purely a football standpoint, the Owings Mills facility provides an ideal backdrop to get ready for the season, and holding training camp there would obviously eliminate the preparation needed to move equipment, weights and other necessary supplies to and from an outside location.
Those, and many other factors, are all things currently being considered.
"We're working on those details. We both have some pretty good ideas of what we want to accomplish and we're on the same page. It's just a question of working things out," Seidel said. "We're trying real hard actually to have something settled by the end of the season, but it's just finding the time really on both sides. We get into our school year and they get into the season. The channels are open, we're working on it and we're making progress. I think that's the best thing we can say."