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Ray Lewis' relationship with Modell unique

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Ray Lewis' relationship with Modell unique

Behind the occasional pauses and chuckles by Ray Lewis as he talked about the late Art Modell, there were tears.

You just couldn't see them. Lewis held them back -- barely -- as did Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome on Thursday.

These strong, stone-faced personalities mostly averted eye contact with reporters. They knew this day was coming, but still weren't totally prepared for it.

Modell, 87, passed away of natural causes at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore early Thursday, but some of the Ravens closest to him were able to say their final goodbyes to the man who brought football back to Baltimore in 1995 when he relocated the Ravens from Cleveland. And Modell was the man who was instrumental in starting Monday Night Football, which is where the Ravens will open their season in just a few days vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.

"The only reason a lot of sacrifices happened throughout this league is because of him. Anytime you can leave a legacy like that, man, we shouldn't mourn -- we do -- but we should be celebrating him because he's one of the most awesome men I've ever met in my life," said Lewis, who was drafted by the Ravens in 1996 and referred to Modell as a "father" and a "leader."

Newsome, a former tight end for Modell's Browns teams and who has been in the Ravens' front office since '96, could barely finish his statement: "When you think back as I have over the past 24 hours the impact of Art, I can't express it in words. Based on all the texts, all the mails and all the phone calls I've gotten from people, the impact not only that he had in my life, he had a major impact in their life too. ... He was a great, great man."

Newsome didn't field questions and quickly exited. Lewis, however, stood there. He didn't buckle under the emotion, though his body language indicated he'd come close.

When the Ravens won the franchise's only Super Bowl in 2001, it was Lewis who got Modell on the platform to celebrate with his signature shuffle.

"One of the greatest moments is actually bringing him that Lombardi Trophy. Us on that stage," recalled Lewis, as he stopped to laugh. " I told him that if we win it then he's going to have to try to do my dance. And we got on stage, I (did) it. He did the dance. It was capped off exactly the way it was supposed to end. Somebody had put in all that work and now we (were) able to bring him what his true dream was, the Lombardi Trophy."

Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations who had been with Modell since his days in Cleveland, couldn't help himself. He had to interject, "Ray, he barely did the dance."

Both shared a hearty laugh about that, too. And Byrne was right. Barely, much like their ability to hold back those tears.

Quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice spoke of Modell, but even those leaders on this team didn't know him like Lewis, Newsome and Byrne. Their relationship with him went beyond football. It was personal.

"It is a son talking to a father," Lewis said of his final conversation at the hospital with Modell. "That's the way I looked at it from the moment I started to whisper into his ear because that's what he always used to do to me. ... It's hard to keep talking about someone who loves you that much."

Second-year linebacker Albert McClellan, who'll be starting for the first time Monday night, admits he knew a little about Modell but believes the locker room is inspired by the day's events.

"I spoke to him, shook his hand. I really didn't know any of his background going into any depth. He's helped the vision of the NFL as where it is today. Without him we probably wouldnt even be playing this Monday," McCellan said.

"The emotion, it's filtered down because he's one of us. Any time, in any group or any tribe or any pact loses a member, they're going to feel down. We just got to go out here and play this game for Mr. Modell."

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Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

It's been a lingering question around the Under Armour Performance Center over the last five weeks as rookie Lamar Jackson has filled in for an injured Joe Flacco.

At some point this season we knew that Flacco would be healthy enough to get back to football.

We also knew at some point this season the Ravens would have to make the tough decision on who their starting quarterback would be in the aftermath of Jackson leading the team to three straight wins.

That question was finally answered Wednesday when head coach John Harbaugh announced Jackson would be starting Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Flacco would be the backup for the first time in his 11 NFL seasons.

"Obviously disappointed that I can't be apart of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time," Flacco said Wednesday on learning the news.

"It's out of my hands. I got hurt. They drafted Lamar in the first round. At some point something was going to happen between the two of us. Who knows what that was going to be. This is just what it is at this point. I've obviously had five weeks to think about it and prepare myself for this situation and the possibility of it. I'm disappointed that, like I said, I can't be in that locker room in the same capacity that I've always been. But this is my situation right now and I'm going to do my best to handle it the right way."

The news, however, shouldn't come as a surprise to many.

In his first four games as the starter, Jackson is 52 of 89 for 600 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in addition to 67 rushing attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His 30 rushing first downs ranks second among NFL QBs behind Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (33), and his 475 rushing yards in 2018 ranks second behind Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (490).

Prior to suffering the hip injury in their Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Flacco was 232 of 379 for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Ravens had lost their last two games under him and it looked like another playoff-less season could be on the horizon for the fourth year in a row.  

When the weeks continued to pass without Flacco and the Ravens record continued to improve with Jackson, the writing to many was already on the wall. 

"It's part of the game," Flacco said on losing the starting job after his injury. "I've talked about it plenty of times. Every time you take the field, there's obviously the risk of something like that happening and it just is what it is."

"I can't say I was surprised. The bigger thing is just even though I'm disappointed, like I said about I guess my different role and all that, is just trying to stay excited about what my role is and the possibilities that they bring."

The leader of this team for 11 years, Flacco had missed just six games and started in his last 41 appearances before Week 10. While Flacco is admittedly not a sentimental guy and many have criticized him for his lack of emotion over the years, standing on the sideline the last four weeks has not been easy.

"It was really tough for me," Flacco said. "It wasn't even about the possibilities of something like this happening, you know, as a starting quarterback — which I've been for a long time for this team— you play through things throughout a course of a 10-year career. I definitely wanted to get out there and be there for my guys that next week, and it's definitely one of the hardest things I've done in my career is standing on the sidelines, being inactive and not being apart of it the way you want to." 

There was no denying the resurgence the Ravens experienced under Jackson. His 336 rushing yards in his first four starts is the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl Era and his running back-like speed continues to be tough for defenses to stop.

What Jackson offers in speed Flacco can compliment in the passing game. Ever since the first-round pick rushed for 119 yards in his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, the narrative has been that Jackson will never be able to sustain that in the NFL. Now with two quarterbacks to use at their discretion, the Ravens' last three games could get very interesting even though Harbaugh would not divulge how much the team would utilize the Super Bowl MVP in Sunday's game. 

"Anything can happen in this league very quickly and were right in the middle of a really good playoff run and we have a lot of important games ahead of us," Flacco said. "I'd firstly be doing my team a big disservice by not preparing the same way I always do, and after that I would be doing myself a big disservice, too, because you never know what's going to happen and when you're going to have to be called on."

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Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco has lost his job as Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback and will be the backup Sunday for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.

Flacco is finally healthy after missing the past four games with a right hip injury. The Ravens went 3-1 during his absence under rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, and coach John Harbaugh has decided to stick with the first-round draft pick with Baltimore striving to end a three-year playoff drought.

Harbaugh said Wednesday: "Every decision is based on making us the strongest possible team we can be."

Jackson will start Sunday when the Ravens (7-6) host Tampa Bay (5-8).

The 33-year-old Flacco has been a starter since his rookie season in 2008 and was Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens beat San Francisco to end the 2012 season.

Flacco says: "I'm obviously disappointed I can't be part of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time."

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