Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Modell closed out of Hall AGAIN!

OWINGS MILLS -- Former Baltimore Ravens majority owner Art Modell remains a polarizing figure when it comes to his struggling candidacy for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Named as a semifinalist for the sixth time in seven years, Modell didn't make the cut to 15 finalists last month and isn't up for consideration today in South Florida when voters select the inductees for this 2010 class of Hall of Famers.

Why is Modell having so much trouble geting into Canton?

Primarily, it's because of his controversial relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Maryland 14 years ago. Plus, there are several other deserving candidates. There's also a strong tendency toward inducting players over coaches, owners and executives.

Ravens majority owner Steve Bisciotti, who completed his purchase of the franchise from Modell six years ago, gave an impassioned argument on the subject this week.

"I think it's a disgrace," Bisciotti said. "They allowed owners that moved their teams into the Hall of Fame and they allowed talented football players that had a checkered past.

"They've completely singled him out, and there's no reason for it. I don't understand how the writers with a clear conscience can say, 'I love this power that I have to hold this guy out of the Hall.'"

Modell remains a minority owner, holding one percent of the Ravens.

Among his qualifications for the Hall: a Super Bowl ring, his instrumental role in the development of Monday Night Football, the league's television contracts, the AFL-NFL merger and realignment.

What's blocking him from enshrinement?

The way the Hall of Fame selection process works, candidates are presented for induction by a selector from where they spent the majority of their career.

In Modell's case, his presentor is Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Tony Grossi.

When Modell was a finalist in 2001, Grossi made a strong, emotional argument against him that swayed voters.

Modell hasn't made the finals ever since.

"We think it's Tony Grossi," Bisciotti said. "He was certainly the ringleader. I don't know if he's softened his stance. I think it's a terrible injustice. You can read 10 different books on the history of the NFL, and Art is going to keep popping back in it.

"The whole thing with Art galls me to no end. To me, there's no credibility with that group of writers. Art wasn't a very good owner. He was one of the best, to me. How can they not say he's one of the movers and shakers of the league?"

General manager Ozzie Newsome, who's in the Hall of Fame for what he accomplished as a tight end with the original Browns, said he's encouraged by what he's heard recently about Modell's chances.

"I think there is a movement in the city of Cleveland that is changing what people think of Mr. Modell," Newsome said. "There have been former players that have called me personally and wanted me to address Mr. Modell about a willingness to do anything that they could do to help in promoting him to get to the Hall of Fame. I don’t know what it is going to take. If I knew, I would have had it done five years ago."

Ed Reed on retirement: "I still need to talk to Ozzie and the Ravens."

Ravens free safety Ed Reed said that the nerve impingement in his neck is only getting worse.

Reed said Friday that he's still undecided on whether he'll retire or return to the team.

"I still have to see doctors," Reed said during an interview with NFL Network at the Super Bowl. "I still need to talk with Ozzie and the Ravens."

Following the Ravens' 20-3 AFC division round loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Reed said he's "50-50" on whether he'll play again.

He emphasized that statement wasn't prompted by the emotions of the defeat.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has repeatedly said that he thinks that Reed will play in 2010.

"Ed is going to hear me say it, and maybe he’d say something different, but I believe Ed is going to play next year," Harbaugh said. "That's something he’s got to decide for himself. If he doesn't, we’ll have to have a plan in place to move on.

"There is no better leader, there is no better football player, there is no better guy on our team than Ed Reed, and we need him back. He’s a huge part of our puzzle."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Is Ozzie playing games with Troy Smith's agent?

Ravens backup quarterback Troy Smith's agent is adamant that he did request a trade for the former Heisman Trophy winner following the team's December loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Agent Ralph Cindrich, who represents the former Ohio State star, emphasized that he definitely contacted the Ravens.

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome stated Wednesday that he hadn't received a trade request from Cindrich.

Cindrich said that he left messages for Newsome and wound up speaking directly with Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty a week or two later.

"Ozzie was called and message was left followed by call and good conversation with Pat," Cindrich wrote in an e-mail to the Carroll County Times. "How many calls does Ozzie return during season? Asked if I should get to Ozzie, answer from Pat no. You talk to Pat, message gets to Ozzie.

"I gave Pat heads up I needed to get word out. I am more than 90 percent sure that Ozzie was called about Troy wanting a trade."

During the Ravens' state of the team press conference, Newsome said he never heard directly from Cindrich regarding Smith.

"I have not heard from his agent," Newsome said. "And I know who his agent is personally, so I have not heard that."

When that comment was relayed to Cindrich, he issued the following reply:

"In a strict sense, Ozzie is correct but he was called and message left. Ozzie is a busy guy during the season. I don't know if I ever spoke with him during the season and I had a few good players there. Then I called, left a message with Pat Moriarty, and he called back after a week or two.

"I related the whole story telling him that Troy wanted to play and I felt it had to get out before the season was over because coaches and GM's were being interviewed, decisions were being made. I said if you want me to keep trying to get to Ozzie (and made some joke about going after him) I said I will."

Cindrich also issued a series of comments on his Twitter account Thursday.

"Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome's office called on Troy Smith trade at the time, message left, with call and conference with Pat Moriarty."

"Heard Ravens Ozzie Newsome did not receive formal Troy Smith trade request. Ozzie pretty please with sugar on top trade the friggin guy."

"Agent formal trade request not in rules-not seen in 40 yrs in #NFL. And what is Pat Moriaty-chopped liver? What, he doesn't pass on talks?"

Smith recently said he would love to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns. And his friend and former college teammate, Donte' Whitner, lobbied for the Buffalo Bills to trade for Smith.

However, it appears unlikely that Smith will ultimately be traded.

Uncapped season points to contract extension for some Ravens

RAVENS LOOKING AHEAD: With the uncapped year looming in 2010, the Ravens may take the opportunity to secure some young players to contract extensions.

Newsome indicated that he'll look to extend some core players to four or five-year deals before next season.

Among the top candidates for new deals: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, offensive linemen Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch.

"We have to be smart enough to know that there are going to be some opportunities that we can extend some guys and take them out of the unrestricted game, and we can have them for four or five years," Newsome said. "That's a balance that we are going to be dealing with over the course of the next four or five months.

"We've got to be prepared to be able to extend some or to be able to say, 'OK, we might have to let this one go because we've got a young player that has to step in and play.' We're playing that game in our mind right now."

Newsome says good players will be cut this offseason

Newsome predicted that a lot of quality players will be released around the league due to the uncapped year making it easier to part ways with expensive veterans without facing the normal salary-cap consequences.

"I think in that this is an uncapped year, there will be some good players that are going to get cut," he said. "And we've had good success with Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Samari Rolle, guys that got cut because of the salary cap situation that that particular team was in. So, I think that's going to increase our pool of players."

Building a new Paul Kruger

Harbaugh said that he would like to see outside linebacker-defensive end Paul Kruger bulk up after his rookie season.

"I'm convinced Paul Kruger is going to be a really good player," he said. "Paul needs to put some weight on, get in that weight room and go to work. And he's committed to doing that. We're going to have a close eye on him in there, for sure. He'll be becoming that guy that we want him to be on the edge of the defense."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

NFL Owners: "Making less money than their linebackers"

Steve Bisciotti fully expects an uncapped year, and he's worried about several owners facing financial difficulties.

He said those issues could create "long-term problems for the league," that could possibly lead to no football in 2011.

"I've got partners out there right now whose teams are making less money than their linebackers," Bisciotti said. "I think we've got an acute problem here with the general profitability of the teams. We always knew this was not a big cash-flow business, but when you've got guys like Jacksonville tarping up 10,000 seats to stop blackouts, when you've got teams that are voluntarily staying at the minimum of what they have to spend on the salary cap in order to not go upside down financially, then we already have a structural problem. I don't know what side the fans are going to take. Three years ago if we hadn't done the deal, we would have forced the players to strike."

Bisciotti characterized the last collective bargaining agreement extension inked three years ago as a bad deal for the owners.

"That puts us in the unenviable position of this thing ending in a lockout as opposed to a strike," Bisciotti said. "There's no cash flow. If we don't get this thing back to the point that teams have enough cash flow, then there's long-term problems for the league. We're going to have to address that.”

Besides noting the Jaguars' ongoing struggles to sell tickets, Bisciotti also referenced the St. Louis Rams having issues getting their asking price in a proposed sale.

Referencing the deep-pocketed New York Yankees, Bisciotti is hoping that the NFL is able to return to a salary-cap business model as soon as possible.

"It certainly doesn't show up in the standings," he said. "If I'm a Yankees fan, I'm upset we're not winning 130 games with the roster that they have and the money that they pay out. I think it's a disgrace they only beat the average team by 10 games in the standings with three times the money. I'd fire that GM. You don't need a GM. All you have to do is buy the guy that was the last Cy Young Award winner every year."

If the NFL goes back to having a salary cap in 2011, there's a concern that teams could be hamstrung by expensive deals struck during the uncapped year.

"Then, it's the league's responsibility to make sure that the teams have a soft landing," Bisciotti said. "That will be the last major negotiating point is exactly how the rosters are affected in that transition back into a cap.

"They could restrict movement for awhile to give you exclusive rights for one more year or stagger them depending on who lost the most. The league is already aware that things that we do to protect ourselves now will not come back and haunt us when we hit the ground running again with the new cap."

As far as baseball's economic system, Bisciotti, who's an Orioles fan, doesn't envision a fix since the Yankees are able to afford the luxury tax.

"I think the genie's out of the bottle," Bisciotti said. "There's just no way of solving it."

Money, money, money, money...

RAVENS' FINANCES: Team president Dick Cass stated that the Ravens are doing fine from a business standpoint, especially in comparison to their NFL brethren.

"In terms of where we are in business, we're doing fine," he said. "We've been able to sell all of our tickets, we've been able to sell our suites. Sponsorship dollars are basically flat.

"So, we're doing well compared to other teams around the league. Again, I'm focusing on revenues, not expenses. Just because we're doing well in revenues doesn't mean we're generating a lot of profit because we do spend a lot of money as well."

Ravens Quick Hits!

In the wake of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan being fined $50,000 for flipping off Miami Dolphins fans that were reportedly provoking him at a mixed martial arts event, Bisciotti was asked if Harbaugh would be less prone to losing his temper in a similar situation. "I think it was more likely to happen to him than John maybe," he said with a laugh. "Are you kidding me? John is the same way. I heard the guy was badgering Rex pretty good and maybe crossed the line. We all have things we wish we could take back. I'm not paying it for him, no, but that's Rex." ...

Asked if the Ravens are a player or two away from being in the Super Bowl, Bisciotti replied: "They say that's fool's gold, right? I mean, that you get caught up in that you're one or two players away. If we win a Super Bowl next year, then Ozzie will probably say that we were those two players away from it. When you look back at Sam Adams and Shannon Sharpe, I would say that those were the couple of pieces that got us over the hump in 2000. Stay tuned. If we win, then we'll tell you the guys that were the difference-makers in getting us there."