NEW ORLEANS — Responsible for all aspects of the Baltimore Ravens, team president Dick Cass is intimately involved in every piece of team and league business.
Highly regarded around the NFL, Cass was a lawyer for the NFL and the league prior to joining the Ravens seven years ago. He provided counsel for the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and the NFL office.
Five years ago, Cass had a major hand in helping to shape the revenue sharing portion of the current collective bargaining agreement that the owners have opted out of.
The Yale Law School graduate was owner Steve Bisciotti’s first hire after taking over as majority owner.
Cass spoke with 24×7’s Aaron Wilson at the annual league meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel, touching on a variety of topics.
Q: Did these meetings take on a different feel due to the labor situation?
A: "We actually get a lot of the same reports that we get at a regular annual meeting. It’s more like the fall meeting or the spring meeting than the annual meeting. In that sense, it’s a little bit different. A lot of the reports are the same."
Q: Are you confident that a new collective bargaining agreement will ultimately get hammered out?
A: "I continue to believe we’re going to have football this year, and I do think things will get worked out in a negotiated agreement."
AW: What’s your role now regarding labor issues?
Cass: "[General manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and I have both participated on a committee that helped formulate various issues that would arise in a new CBA. Other than attending meetings and talking with other teams and talking with the league office, I don’t have any specific role."
Q: What was the thinking as far as not laying off staff or instituting furloughs during the work stoppage?
A: "We made the decision about a year ago when we were redoing our coaches’ contracts. We’ve got a great staff on the coaching side, scouting side and the business side. We didn’t want to lose anybody. So, we wanted to keep everyone together. I still anticipate playing football this season. So, we have to be ready to go not only on the field but off the field."
Q: Where do things stand with holding training camp at McDaniel College?
A: "We’re going to have to make some decisions if the work stoppage continues about summer training camp. We don’t have to make that decision yet. We’re talking to McDaniel College. We’ve been in discussions with them. We’d love to go back to McDaniel. Our fans love it out there and it’s just been a great tradition. Hopefully, we’ll be back out there this summer."
"If we can work it out depending on how the schedules work out for everyone, we’d like to be back there. It’s just a great tradition for Baltimore. It goes back to the Baltimore Colts. A lot of teams are bringing their training camps inside. We really don’t want to do that. We much prefer to have a place where our fans can have access to our players."
Q: How are personal seat license, season ticket and sponsorship sales going?
A: "On the ticket side, we’re doing fine. In terms of renewals, we’re a little bit over 80 percent at this time, which is about where we would be at this time of year. We don’t have the final payment due until June. So, we’ll see how that goes. So far, everything seems to be going very well on the ticket side.
"On the sponsorship side, we didn’t have that many major sponsorships to renew this year. So, we were fortunate in that regard. We’re out there selling and marketing and trying to get new sponsoring in. We’re having a lot of meetings. I think the work stoppage will slow that down a little bit, but I still think we’ll have a good year in that regard as well."
Q: How is the organization’s partnership with WBAL-TV and Radio going?
A: "We’ve had a great partnership with WBAL. WBAL and 98 Rock have been great partners for us. It’s a good relationship, a strong relationship. That will continue."
Q: Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is often mentioned as a candidate for general manager jobs around the NFL, and a potential future successor for Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. He has also said he wants to stay in Baltimore and win a Super Bowl. What’s the situation with him going forward?
A: "We’ve given Eric a contract that gives him incentives to stay. It doesn’t keep him from leaving for the right situation, but it would have to be absolutely the right situation for him to leave. So, hopefully he’ll be with us for a long time as well as Ozzie."
Q: John Harbaugh has led the Ravens to three playoff appearances and signed a three-year, roughly $12 million contract extension. Has he exceeded the team’s expectations?
A: "I think maybe we had success earlier than we anticipated having success. John has done a fabulous job. He recruited a great staff. He’s launched a wonderful career as a head coach in the NFL. I expect him to be with the Baltimore Ravens for a long, long time."
AW: How satisfied are the Ravens with quarterback Joe Flacco.
Cass: "We all know it’s a quarterback driven league. It’s very difficult to win in this league unless you have an elite quarterback. We have an elite quarterback, we believe. Joe has done an outstanding job so far and his arrow is pointing up. He’s going to continue to improve and so we couldn’t be more pleased with Joe Flacco."
Q: What’s it like around team headquarters during a lockout?
A: "This week, the players would have started coming in for voluntary workouts and a lot of players hang around the building work out eat lunch and chat with the staff. It’s quiet around the building because the players aren’t around. Apart from that, the offseason has been business as usual.
"Everyone on the football side has been focused on the draft. The coaches and the scouts alike are working very hard on the draft. I think it will really hit everyone when the draft is over and we get into the period where we usually have OTAs and minicamps. That’s when I think it will really hit everyone in the building that we’re in a very different situation."
Q: Are there any big, new business initiatives for the franchise?
A: "No, not really anything different. I think we’re going to continue initiatives. Last year, we spent a lot of money on the stadium upgrading the video boards, putting in a new field surface and making some improvements. We deferred that this year. We’re thinking about making some improvements to the stadium for next year. We’re continuing business as usual for the time being."
Q: What sort of feedback do you get about the training complex?
A: "Our building is still one of the best in the NFL. We opened seven years ago. A couple of other teams have opened buildings. I’ve talked to players that have been in those buildings. I’ve seen some of them. I haven’t seen all of them. I continue to think that ours if it’s not the best in the league it’s one of the best. It’s a functional building. It’s also a very classy building."
Q: What’s the value of the meetings?
A: "These meetings are very important to talk with other teams about what they’re doing, share our concerns, share our successes and our failures and talk about what’s going on around the league. You really learn a lot. You learn a lot in the meetings. We’re given a lot of information. You also learn a lot outside the meetings interacting with other teams. It’s an important process."
Q: How much solidarity is there on the NFL side?
A: "I’ve been around the league a long time as a lawyer and a team executive going back to the late 1980s. I’ve never seen the league more unified at this point. I don’t see any reason that won’t continue to be the case. I really expect to get a deal done."