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."
Former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe is a finalist for the Hall of Fame.
The only consensus locks for induction are running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Jerry Rice.
NOTE: 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.