Bitter defeat sends Modell into retirement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) - The final day of Art Modell's 43-year career as an NFL owner began with a warm celebration and ended with a bitter defeat.

For Modell, the most memorable part of Saturday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans occurred before the opening kickoff. During a rousing pregame ceremony, the 78-year-old owner had his name placed in the Ravens' Ring of Honor.

The name ARTHUR B. MODELL will forever grace the upper deck of the stadium that probably would not exist if not for him.

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After the sign was unveiled, 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 Ravens halted their preparation for the start of the game by standing and applauding on the sideline.

One fan held a sign that said, ''1st Raven in the Hall of Fame: Art Modell.''

Modell isn't yet a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, perhaps because he is known for moving the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore before the 1996 season.

After spending most of his career as an owner in Cleveland, Modell moved his team to Baltimore, claiming the relocation was the only way he could field a competitive team. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, but their bid to return ended with Saturday's 20-17 loss.

Modell bought the Browns in 1961 for $4 million and helped shape the NFL into a multibillion dollar industry. He chaired the television committee, was a driving force behind ''Monday Night Football'' and helped bring about the AFL-NFL merger.

Modell sold 49 percent of the team to Steve Bisciotti in 1999 with the understanding that Bisciotti could purchase the remaining 51 percent after the 2003 season.

The Ravens hoped to give Modell a proper send-off by advancing to the Super Bowl, but the Titans didn't cooperate.

''We would have liked to give him the best gift he could ever get, but that's how it goes,'' Baltimore guard Edwin Mulitalo said.

The Ravens believe Modell has laid the groundwork for a successful franchise, and that Bisciotti will continue his work.

''We have a great new owner taking over, and like every owner, their motivation is winning,'' Mulitalo said. ''You never expect some owner to come in and make the program less than what it is. Obviously there are going to be changes, but whatever he's going to do is going to be motivated by trying to win.''