NFL season opener in Baltimore now in limbo as Ravens and Orioles can't compromise

PHOENIX — A failure to resolvea scheduling conflict with the Orioles has jeopardized the Ravens' chances of hosting the NFL's 2013regular-season opener, an honor bestowed on the Super Bowl champions for the last decade.

The NFL was expected to announce the Ravens' opponent for the Sept. 5 game at this week's league meetings. Instead, league and team officials said Monday that the game's location is in doubt because the Orioles are scheduled to host the Chicago White Sox at 7:05 the same night.

The Ravens have made several proposals and asked the Orioles to move the game to the afternoon to set up a potential baseball/football doubleheader, but the Orioles and Major League Baseball have not agreed to that arrangement. Camden Yards and M&T; Bank Stadium are adjacent to each other and share parking lots so playing the games at the same time is not an option.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, while hoping the situation can be resolved, gave strong indication Tuesday at the owners' meetings that he would prefer to play on the road Thursday night to open the season rather than having a weekend home game. Playing on Thursday night would give the Ravens nine days off before having to play in Week 2.


"From a football standpoint, that's a plus and you feel like you've earned that," Harbaugh said. "That's something that is an opportunity to gain a little more rest time for your guys. You know, last year, we played four games in 18 days because we opened up on Monday night and then the fourth game was on Thursday.

"That was tough. I'm not sure that physically, we ever completely recovered from that throughout the course of the season. It is a benefit playing on Thursday."


But having the game at home on Thursday night would be great for Baltimore, Harbaugh said.

"The biggest thing is our fans. The team belongs to the fans, the team belongs to the community. You say whose team is this? It's the community's team," he said.  "To have that home game after the Super Bowl has kind of become tradition. It's something that we would cherish. It would mean a lot to our fans."

"I have called (MLB Commissioner) Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at the league's annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. "We are trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles' game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home on Thursday night. We think that is the right thing. We have agreed to move the game a little bit later in the evening to try to accommodate the baseball game.

"As a kid who grew up as an Orioles fan, to have the Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens' Super Bowl championship celebration for the kickoff game will be a great day. We hope that is the way it will happen."

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team has offered to compensate their baseball neighbors for any lost revenue. Orioles owner Peter Angelos couldn't be reached for comment and Greg Bader, the Orioles' vice president for marketing and public relations, declined comment. However, a team source said the Orioles' reticence to move the game to earlier in the day is a baseball issue, not a financial one. Orioles officials don't think they could get the required approval from the White Sox, the league and the players' association to change the game time.

"It doesn't just involve the Orioles. There is another team," said Katy Feeney, MLB's senior vice president for club relations and scheduling. "I think mainly, from a baseball standpoint, to make that change is extremely difficult."

The Orioles — and the White Sox for that matter — play the previous night in other cities, which would cause a tough turn-around for both teams. The Orioles, who made the playoffs last year for the first time in 15 years, are also expecting to play meaningful baseball in September and don't want to put their team at a disadvantage in the heat of a possible pennant race.

"In fairness to Major League Baseball and the Angeloses, we're trying to dump a pretty big problem on them and we're asking them to make a lot of concessions that will benefit us and potentially harm them though it doesn't necessarily harm them," Bisciotti said. "The bottom line is if they wanted to do it, they would find a way to do it. From the Ravens and the NFL standpoint, we'll do whatever we have to do in order to keep that tradition."

With the NFL planning its schedule for the coming season, Goodell said the league needs a resolution on the matter soon. A failure to come to an agreement would most likely result in the Ravens starting the season on Sept. 5 on the road.

"We think that's wrong for the Ravens' fans and we would not want to happen," Goodell said.

The most obvious solution would be moving the football game up to Wednesday, Sept. 4, but Goodell said the league has ruled that out because it conflicts with the first night of Rosh Hashanah. The NFL has played games on the first night of holiday before, including last season when the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football on Sept. 16.

However, the season's first game is a little bit different because the NFL turns it into a football festival of sorts with parties and concerts. The NFL did move its season opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys to a Wednesday last year to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama's address at the Democratic National Convention.

"I don't know how much goodwill we've built up at both the league level and the team level. I hope it's enough that [the Orioles] say, 'This is a good thing to bend over backwards to accommodate them,' " Bisciotti said. "I think a doubleheader — if we can move it a little later and they can move it a little earlier — and we can pull it off, I'm trying to figure what would be a greater day in Baltimore. The call-in sick factor in Baltimore that day ... they might just close every office in town and say, 'Go do what you want to do.' I think it's an opportunity for Major League Baseball to look really good, too, if they can some way figure it out."

Feeney, the MLB official, said the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, who have adjacent stadiums, had a similar situation recently and having a baseball-football doubleheader was not a "good situation."

She also acknowledged that a switch would have to be approved by several parties.

"It doesn't just involve the Orioles. There is another team," Feeney said. "I think mainly, from a baseball standpoint, to make that change is extremely difficult. The White Sox would take a broadcast revenue hit and the O's would take a broadcast revenue and attendance hit. And there is a baseball operations impact. Conceivably both teams could be in playoff contention, so it wouldn't be fair to them to make them play a day game after both teams played a night game and traveled the night before.

"We make accommodations in our scheduling in the postseason. We work with the NFL. But this was something that was brought to us as a possibility just three weeks or a month ago. We always want to work with whoever wants to work with us, but why should these teams be punished?"

Scott Reifert, White Sox senior vice president of communications, said the team had no comment.

"Obviously, we feel like it's an Orioles and MLB issue so we're waiting for their resolution and then we may or may not comment on the issue," he said today.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who attended the University of Maryland and is an Orioles fan, said he hopes the conflict can be worked out. Orioles and Ravens players could be seen at each others' games last season to lend support.

"I'm sure they will figure it out," Smith said. " ... It's a scheduling conflict. It's two great owners and two great organizations and one great city. Maybe they'll both play at the same time and it will be the biggest traffic jam next to that parade in the city."

Baltimore Sun reporters Dan Connolly, Peter Schmuck and Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.