Modell has waited long enough to get into Hall

Maybe this year the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee will invoke a statute of limitation on the Ravens' move from Cleveland to Baltimore after the 1995 season and vote former majority owner Art Modell in as a member.

This should have been done a few years ago, but apparently there are still hard feelings from several voters on the panel. But when is enough enough? How much longer will Modell be penalized when Jacksonville is considering moving, and so is New Orleans with its fan base crippled by Hurricane Katrina?

The Modell name is as synonymous with the NFL as the Maras and Rooneys. The league owes Modell, 80, its gratitude, and he should be able to enjoy it.

He was chairman of the Owners Labor Committee (1968), which successfully negotiated the NFL's first players collective bargaining agreement, and served on the NFL-AFL Merger Committee, breaking the impasse for realignment of the two leagues by moving the Browns to the AFC. He helped negotiate with ABC the first Monday night football contract, and put together the first TV network deals that eventually transformed the NFL into the top sports league in the world today.

He has been a total league guy.

Modell was one of 15 finalists for the Hall of Fame in 2001, but critics thought the move was still too fresh in the minds of voters. Well, it's five years later. It's time to let go of the past and live for the present. Modell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

It wouldn't surprise me if middle linebacker Ray Lewis didn't play the rest of the season, because as long as the team is out of playoff contention, there is no need to rush back.

Lewis won't play tomorrow against the Bengals, the fifth straight game he will have missed. The length of absence would be understandable if this were a high ankle sprain, or arthroscopic knee surgery, but Lewis has a thigh bruise.

Huh? Apparently, there is no use putting wear on the body if the team has no shot at a postseason appearance. Other veterans such as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden could probably work out a similar situation, except Ogden might be in his last season before retiring.

If Ogden retired, no one within the Ravens' organization would be surprised. Ogden, though, will play to the end.

More Ray Lewis: Quarterback Kyle Boller was furious recently about initial criticism from former Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe. So much, in fact, that as soon as he read the comments in The Sun, he went parading around the team's training complex looking for Lewis, a close friend of Sharpe's.

Boller has only two speeds: hyper and super hyper. He was very animated with Lewis to start the conversation, his arms flapping as wildly as the old robot in the Lost in Space series. But Lewis quickly settled Boller down by telling him, "Not with me, young man," and Boller slipped into normal mode.

Since then, there have been running comments from Boller, Sharpe and coach Brian Billick. I don't know why. Sharpe is the king of trash-talking. His job is to provide commentary, sharp (pun intended) criticism. The best way for the Ravens to shut him up is to play better and win games.

That's the bottom line in a bottom-line league.

It's hard to believe the Ravens still might put the franchise tag on running back Jamal Lewis. Is he being punished, or do the Ravens actually believe they might be able to get something for Lewis? If Lewis gets the designation, then the Ravens have to pay him the average salary of the top five players at his position, or a team could sign Lewis by offering the Ravens two first-round draft picks as compensation. That appears unlikely. Everyone around the league knows that Lewis is unhappy here, and there are questions about whether he will ever be a dominant back again.

So, would you make that deal? At this point, it's best for the Ravens to let Lewis hit the open market. It's apparent he is disgruntled with the front office, and the front office wasn't happy about him negotiating in the newspaper. Overall, Lewis is a good guy who says what's on his mind. Since becoming a Raven in 2000, he has played extremely hard, and the Ravens couldn't have won a Super Bowl without him. He's the guy who usually puts Matt Stover in field-goal range.

The Ravens should allow him to leave in a decent and orderly manner, and this would be a large step in solving a lot of locker room issues. Several players are unhappy about contract situations, and the Ravens don't need to kick Lewis going out the door.

Billick has become so irritated with information being leaked that he has become paranoid. In recent weeks, the Ravens have interviewed players about possibly being "the source." Here's a team that has won only three of 10 games, and they're acting as if whether a team should have alcohol on the team plane is a violation of national security.

What about schemes and adjustments? What happened to viewing tape, and grading out players? Of course, the witch hunt has had no definitive answers. To cut down on further frustration and allow the Ravens to get back to business, I will divulge the much sought-after information as I did earlier this week online. A little drum roll, please:

The source(s) are none other than Edgar, Allan and Poe, the team mascots.

After the Bengals beat the Ravens, 21-9, in Baltimore three weeks ago, several of the Bengals wanted to know if I still felt they were "soft."

Are you kidding me?

There are baby bottoms not as soft as the Bengals.

Great job last week, Bengals. Cincinnati allowed 359 passing yards and 92 rushing yards in a 45-37 loss to the Colts. Cincinnati is No. 25 in rushing defense, allowing 121 yards per game.

So defensively, do the Bengals think they are the '85 Bears? How about The Steel Curtain?

It's a Doomsday group, because the unit eventually will spell doom for the Bengals later in the season.