Modell: I'll never forget farewell

Art Modell's final game as an NFL owner was a mixture of cheers and tears.

Long before Tennessee kicker Gary Anderson's last-minute, 46-yard field goal ended the Ravens' season as well as the Modell era on Saturday, the Ravens made sure the owner's legacy will never be forgotten by inducting him into the team's Ring of Honor.

Calling it the most memorable night of his 43-year ownership, Modell received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd as he waved from the owner's box at M&T Bank Stadium. Many of the players stopped their pre-game preparations and applauded from the sideline, including All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, who gave a misty-eyed Modell a thumbs-up salute.

"It was a beautiful few moments that I will always remember," said Modell, who finished with a 346-304-8 record and 28 winning seasons. "I saw the players and the crowd standing up applauding me. How often do you get that? I was very, very overwhelmed and quite taken emotionally."

At age 78, after a heart attack and a stroke in recent years, Modell will sell the remaining 51 percent of the franchise to Steve Bisciotti sometime in April before the NFL draft.

By delaying the official sale completion - which will total $600 million - it allows Modell to take one last bow at the annual owners' meetings. It also will come nearly four years to the date after Bisciotti bought 49 percent of the team with the understanding he could purchase the rest after the 2003 season.

Modell, who became teary-eyed when watching Lewis talk about next year in a post-game interview, said he still has not yet felt any finality two days after his last game as owner.

"I'll still be around; in what role remains to be seen," said Modell, who is expected to named as a consultant to Bisciotti and will continue to have an office at the team's new practice complex. "I'll be at practice every day as I've had, and I'll be at training camp every day."

The change of ownership is not expected to mean major changes in the organization.

To keep continuity in the front office, Bisciotti oversaw contract extensions for general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach Brian Billick before this season. Newsome and Billick are signed through the 2006 and 2005 seasons, respectively.

"I credit both Steve Bisciotti and the Modells for making what could have been a difficult transition a virtually seamless one," Billick said. "We should be able to move along right on schedule."

As the Ravens move forward, Modell will forever be linked to the franchise he moved from Cleveland after the 1995 season.

Placing him in the Ring of Honor, the Ravens unveiled the placard "ARTHUR B. MODELL," a name that will always grace the upper deck of a stadium that might not have existed if not for him.

"Hopefully, it is merely a precursor to his induction into the Hall of Fame, where he richly belongs," said David Modell, who is the team's outgoing president and Art's son.

Modell is one of 25 candidates this year for the Hall of Fame, and the new members will be announced at the Super Bowl in Houston.

His decision to relocate the franchise is the major roadblock to his induction. But he has gained growing support from the national media based on his 31 years as chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee and his role in persuading fellow owners to share television revenue.

One lasting image at Modell's final game was a purple-clad fan holding up a sign that said: "1st Raven in the Hall of Fame: Art Modell."

"I'm very appreciative of the welcome that the people of Baltimore gave the Modell family nine years ago," Modell said. "They reached out to us, and I'll never forget it. I could only return the favor by putting out a good product, and I think we've done that."

NOTES: Phil Savage, the Ravens' highly regarded director of player personnel, will interview for the Miami Dolphins' new general manager position today. "We've got a great thing going, but I think I would be foolish not to check out what they may have down there," Savage said. ... The Ravens are waiting on linebacker Peter Boulware to schedule his arthroscopic knee surgery. Reserve fullback Ovie Mughelli (shoulder) and backup cornerback Tom Knight (finger) also will undergo offseason surgery.

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