Modell is a master at NFL name game

In 43 years as an NFL owner, Art Modell has dealt with nearly every important, semi-important or self-important league figure. The Sun asked him to play word association with some of the NFL's historic names.

PAUL BROWN, legendary coach and general manager who founded the Cleveland Browns in 1946 and was fired by Modell in 1963: "A football genius and a man impossible to deal with."

JIM BROWN, legendary Browns running back: "The greatest football player who ever lived. A joy and a pleasure to see him play and to have him play for me."

OZZIE NEWSOME, Ravens general manager, former Browns tight end: "Outstanding citizen, outstanding professional. First black general manager in football history. A source of great pride for me. I drafted him in 1978. When he was through playing, I put him in the scouting department. We nursed him along very, very slowly. And his career took shape. He's doing a job now that other teams just salivate about. Eight Pro Bowlers this year! Eight Pro Bowlers!"

JOHN ELWAY, former Broncos quarterback who beat the Browns in the AFC title game in 1986 with a last-minute, 98-yard drive: (Modell chuckled) "I dream about him every night."

EARNEST BYNER, Ravens director of player development whose fumble on the 3-yard line helped cost the Browns the 1987 AFC title game: "Good man, still works for me. Trying very much to eradicate the memory of that fumble because it's haunting him. [At one point], the classic NFL channel kept running it over and over again. He came to me and asked me if there was anything I could do, so I called up and said: 'Get rid of that damn thing. Take it off the air. He's suffered enough.'"

PETE ROZELLE, NFL commissioner from 1960 to 1989: "My closest confidant and working partner. My very dear friend. We made a lot of music together for the NFL. An awful lot."

PAUL TAGLIABUE, NFL commissioner since 1989: "Different kind of guy than Rozelle was. An attorney, more of an academic. Doesn't have the street smarts that Pete had. Or the public relations sense. But a good man. He was not my first choice to be commissioner. I wanted Jim Finks, with Paul Tagliabue staying in the wings, and when Finks retired, Tagliabue would become commissioner."

AL DAVIS, Oakland Raiders principal owner and chief executive: "Brilliant football man, but a pain, a litigious guy. Hasn't seen a courtroom that he hasn't fallen in love with. I don't know what's motivating him these days, but every time I turn around he's launching another lawsuit. Two days before he was due to testify in the USFL's antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, I begged him not to testify against his partners in the NFL. I had my son there, too, because I wanted him to be a witness to the conversation. 'Al, I'm pleading with you, don't testify against this league.' He said, 'I'm going to do what I have to do.' And he testified.

"I don't know what makes him tick. He had so much going for him. I'm disappointed in him. I think he's a good family man, I think he cares for his fellow man, up to a point, but his litigation history is shameful, really."

JERRY JONES, Dallas Cowboys owner: "A good hustler. A good man. I've gotten to know him reasonably well. The young owners, their values are different. My ethics are different, my work habits are different. ... He's a super salesman. I call him the Jimmy Swaggart of the NFL."

DANIEL SNYDER, Washington Redskins owner: "He's got a lot to learn. Hopefully, he will learn it and apply it."

BRIAN BILLICK, Ravens coach: "He might wind up as one of the great coaches this league has had. He's a long way from that. He hasn't been around long enough for me to make that judgment. But my instincts tell me he's going to be an outstanding coach."

Ray Lewis, Ravens linebacker: "Greatest middle linebacker to ever play the game. A source of great pride to me. The trouble he had in Atlanta, I went down there and testified for him and got him out of that snake pit down there. He's a beautiful man and a great, great talent."

Jamal Lewis, Ravens running back: "Also a great talent, but a different kind of guy. Very laid-back, closed-mouthed. Doesn't say very much, but he's going to be around a long time. I tell people that he seems to be the reincarnation of Jim Brown. I've told that to Jamal myself. He's a four-star special."

STEVE BISCIOTTI, Ravens minority owner who will purchase the rest of the team from Modell in April: "I like him very much. I think when I turn over this franchise to Steve, it will be in good hands. He is honest enough and forthright. I like him very much. He's a good man.

"He'll realize that there are things you can do and things you shouldn't do in this league. He's not a carnival man. Jerry [Jones], the very nature of the man is that he has a little 'carny' in him."