Carroll County Times

Ravens: Those affiliated with organization feel Modell is a Hall of Famer

Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell listens to a question during a news conference at the NFL football team's training facility in Owings Mills, on Dec. 28, 1998.

NEW ORLEANS - On Saturday, Baltimore Ravens fans are likely to rejoice when one of their own is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They may be unhappier when a second one isn't.

Jonathan Ogden has an excellent chance to be the Ravens' first Hall of Fame member. Along with Larry Allen, Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan, Ogden is on the ballot for the first time.

Art Modell is another one of the 17 finalists. His chances are murkier.

Modell died in September, just before the first game of the season, and the man who brought the team to Baltimore has many friends around the NFL - and some detractors, too.

"If you look at the game, he was a pioneer in just about everything that this game is about right now. It's unfortunate that he won't be alive when he gets the chance to go into the Hall of Fame. That's a shame," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

There are 46 members of the Selection Committee, one from each NFL franchise and 14 others who cover the league. The voters are chosen by the Hall of Fame, which is located in Canton, Ohio. Baltimore's voter is broadcaster Scott Garceau.

Garceau will present the case of both Ogden and Modell. There are some vehement opponents of Modell. Tony Grossi, longtime Cleveland Browns beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who now covers the team for has opposed Modell in the past and has indicated he'll continue to do so.

"With him, I think the positives outweigh the negatives - the negative of the move. That's how I go about making decisions and that's how I hope the voters do it," Newsome said.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who declined to comment on Modell to The Times, told "I do think he's the most accomplished person in the history of the NFL that is not in. If the one reason for not giving him the votes is because he moved the team, then I wish they would at least acknowledge that, though it was gut-wrenching for the Cleveland fans, it's a part of the business that's been done many times in the NFL."

Besides Modell, there are two other executives, Edward DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers when they won five Super Bowls and longtime NFL coach Bill Parcells that are up for induction.

Modell owned a NFL team for 51 seasons, and bought the Browns for $4 million in 1961. A high school dropout, Modell made his money in advertising and was credited with negotiating the league's lucrative television packages and for helping start ABC's "Monday Night Football."

"The National Football League wouldn't be the same. Isn't that the measurement, how much better they made our game and the National Football League? By any measurement it wouldn't be the same and it wouldn't be as good as it is right now. He changed football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He changed the way that it was perceived. He helped make it the popular game that it is today. He had a vision that very few people had in his time."

Modell was also popular among his players. Terrell Suggs remembers how he used to watch practice in his golf cart, and he enjoyed sitting with Modell and chatting.

"He did some huge [things] for guys in my position now. All this excitement at the Super Bowl is possible because of Art Modell," Suggs said.

Ray Lewis was particularly close to Modell.

"You can only tell them about the man who I knew myself - a true legend in his own way, a real visionary who changed thousands and thousands of lives. For the impact he's had on this business and what he's done for so many in this business, for me - I am a little biased - I would say, 'Why wouldn't he be in the Hall of Fame?'" Lewis said.

"Like I said, however they vote, they vote, but he is already in my Hall of Fame."