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'I think we have arrived' Modell sees victory over Colts as key moment for Ravens


As owner Art Modell watched the festive atmosphere and the euphoria of a sellout crowd of 68,898 celebrating the Ravens' 38-31 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Ravens stadium, he concluded that his team had finally arrived in Baltimore and expressed optimism about the future, even though the status of coach Ted Marchibroda still is undecided.

Modell said yesterday that he will begin meeting with members of his front office within the next three weeks to attack issues concerning the team. Modell said he expected to begin an evaluation of the players and the coaching staff soon after the season, and any new plans would be implemented by the end of January.

Marchibroda, in the last year of his contract, has a 15-28-1 record in three years, and the offense has consistently struggled the past two seasons. Modell reconfirmed that he has not spoken to any coaching candidates.

"I never dreamed that we would be 5-7 at this point," said Modell. "From the off-season and the preseason, I thought we would have a better team. But something went wrong, and I have to find out what happened. We'll begin the evaluation after the season. Despite our record, I was very proud of our reception by the fans. I think we have arrived.

"I was not here when the Colts moved, but I know the feelings permeated with our move from Cleveland," said Modell. "But in all my years, I can never recall a game in Cleveland, Denver or wherever, where there was so much electricity. It was deafening, unbelievable enthusiasm. It wasn't just a game, it was an event to see all those people in purple colors and purple hats. The first year we get into the playoffs, the roof will come off this town."

Marchibroda said the team has made steady progress during his time and pointed out the Ravens had only 51 players on the roster and no practice squad in his first season. Marchibroda also noted the team's successful drafts have included players such as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebackers Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Peter Boulware and receiver Jermaine Lewis and the free-agent acquisitions include defensive tackles Tony Siragusa, James Jones, cornerback Rod Woodson and defensive end Michael McCrary.

But Marchibroda isn't lobbying for his job. He knows the bottom line.

"This team is on the verge of something good," said Marchibroda. "I've said it before that we have come together as a team over the last couple of weeks. The only way to lobby for your job is to win. You take any job in the NFL, you have to win even when your job is not on the line. I don't want to say we can run the table [in the four remaining games], but we're capable of winning every ballgame."

Modell declined to talk about the draft in April, but it's apparent that the Ravens' biggest need is a tall, talented receiver who can become the team's go-to player. Third-year receiver Lewis has been the Ravens' big-play receiver this season, but at 5 feet and 172 pounds, he is not a big target in the final two minutes of games.

The Ravens would like to find a young quarterback to groom if one is available when they select in the first round, as well as a safety, several interior offensive linemen for depth and a backup tight end to starter Eric Green.

"We have the hard-core nucleus of the team to build around for a long time," said Modell.

In the past week, owners William Clay Ford of the Detroit Lions and Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills publicly criticized officiating, something Modell said he couldn't recall previously from multiple owners.

Ford said: "The biggest turkey on Thanksgiving had on a striped shirt and a white hat," after the officiating crew blew several calls in the Lions' 19-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday.

Wilson described the officiating as the worst he has seen after several disputed calls in the Bills' 25-21 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

"This is an extraordinary development. When you have owners like William Clay Ford, Dan Rooney and Ralph Wilson sounding off, then it's a new experience," said Modell. "It's one thing when it comes from a coach, because he is emotional and his job is on the line. But when the criticism comes from an elegant man like William Clay Ford, then there is a situation the league has to take a look at.

"I know there are some new officials in the league, and maybe they haven't found their groove yet. But the officials are honest people, and I will vouch for their integrity. But because of television and replays on scoreboards, there is a lot of pressure to call close games. The officials were relentless in throwing the flags in that Monday night game involving Kansas City recently."

The league has notified the Ravens of two blown calls in losses to Pittsburgh and San Diego.

Modell laughed at the idea of hiring officials full-time, but welcomed the idea of limited instant replay review.

"The officials are active in their professions and active in this craft," Modell said. "But I don't see the league making them full-time. What can they do but give them eye exams during the week?

"I would hope that the league could design a way to station cameras and train them on the goal lines and out-of-bounds lines to help the decision-making process. Right now, we have a growing situation that's feeding itself."

Pub Date: 12/01/98

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