Mike Preston: Let's not forget early Ravens players and staff who laid the foundation

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For each home game this season the Ravens have brought back a Ring of Honor member. But I'd like to see them introduce some of the players from the early teams in the mid 1990s when the team first moved to Baltimore.

I don't know if the Ravens have any plans to honor those players or staff members in this, their 20th season in Baltimore, but they deserve some type of recognition.


When the Browns moved here from Cleveland to Baltimore for the 1996 season, then-owner Art Modell brought 28 staff members with him. That had to be a stressful time; some of them had been born and raised in Cleveland. Not only did they have to relocate, but some endured hatred from Browns fans.

At least eight of them are still on staff today including Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Byrne, Bob Eller, Pat Moriarty, Vince Newsome, George Kokinis, Jon Dube and Bill Jankowski.


During the first couple of seasons the Ravens survived trying times. Not only was Memorial Stadium old and outdated, but the Ravens had to renovate the old Colts complex in Owings Mills. I still remember Bill Tessendorf walking around that facility wearing a tool belt in the evening while still holding down his full-time job as trainer during the day.

Not only did Tessendorf help in the reconstruction of that building, he also helped design the current Ravens training facility. Those people, also including David Modell, Jim Bailey, Phil Savage, John Wooten, James Harris, Scott Pioli and Francine Lubera, put in excessive amounts of overtime to help lay the foundation for what is one of the NFL's best organizations.

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Those first three teams, led by coach Ted Marchibroda, weren't very good because the Ravens had cash flow problems. But those coaching staffs were excellent with assistants like Kirk Ferentz, Pat Hill, Mike Sheppard, Jim Schwartz, Eric Mangini, Scott O'Brien, Jacob Burney and Marvin Lewis.

Some of those players were colorful, especially safety Bennie Thompson, receiver Michael Jackson, running back Bam Morris and one of my all-time favorites, running back Leroy Hoard.

Back then, there were virtually no constraints on reporters as far as time spent in the locker room, so some of us talked as much trash to the players as they talked to us. It was fun hanging out with offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden, Wally Williams, Orlando Brown, Jeff Blackshear and Ben Cavil (nicknamed Tastykakes).

It was okay back then to get into verbal exchanges with a Rob Burnett, Tony Siragusa or Michael McCrary. It's an era that has gone by, but one that shouldn't be forgotten.

I was the beat writer back then. During the last month of the 1995 season, I spent time flying back and forth from Baltimore to Cleveland. Every game for me was a road game.

But I also won't forget the amount of time and effort those early teams and administrative staffs put in to get this team up and rolling. I'll always respect Ray Lewis, Ogden and Ed Reed, but I have similar respect for Vinny Testarverde, Stevon Moore and Priest Holmes. They were the ones that helped get this started. Those guys laid the foundation during some tough times.


They should never be forgotten.