By JP Finlay
Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell died today at the age of 87. Modell passed away from natural causes at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Modell brought the NFL back to Baltimore after more than a decade without a team. Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996, where the team would become known as the Ravens. In 2001, the Ravens won the Super Bowl on the strength of a legendary defense. By 2004, Modell sold his majority share of the Ravens to Steve Bisciotti, though Modell maintained a small percentage of team ownership.
He was my friend, my mentor. We will miss him so much. How lucky are all of us to have had Art in Baltimore? How fortunate I am to have had him teach me about the NFL," the Ravens owner said in a statement. "His generosity, his love, his humor, his intelligence, his friendship we were all blessed by this great man. We will strive to live up to his standard.
Ravens General Manager and Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome expressed similar gratitude for Modell.
Art was a giant in our industry. He was my boss but he wouldnt let me call him that my mentor, and most importantly, my friend," Ravens General Manager and Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome said in a team statement. "He was the most caring, compassionate person Ive ever known. The opportunities he gave me are historic, and I will be forever humble and grateful.
Current Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hired by Bisciotti, but said he was lucky to still have Modell impact his life and career.
"I loved Art, and he loved my family, including my parents. He welcomed us to Baltimore with genuine warmth and grace," Harbaugh said. Art continued to be a big part of this great organization. He spoke to our team every year, and he interacted with the players and coaches whenever he was here. This was a strong and good man. He was a winner in every way."
For some, Modell moving the team from Cleveland to Baltimore tarnished his legacy. Former NBC-TV President Dick Ebersol said that despite the move, Modell deserves a place in the NFL Hall of Fame.
"But, I am so saddened with one thing: Art did not get to experience an induction into the Hall of Fame," Ebersol said. "The leaders in Cleveland, when he moved to Baltimore, put Art in an untenable situation and left him with the hard choice of moving. That scarred some people on Art. I hope in death Art is placed where he should be in Canton in the Hall of Fame."
Modell was also crucial in the development of Monday Night Football, the primetime nationally-televised weekly matchup that helped usher in the league's growth. Current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue expressed their gratitude for Modell and his impact on the league.
"Art Modells leadership was an important part of the NFLs success during the leagues explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond," Goodell said. "As the longtime chairman of the leagues Broadcast Committee, Art was a visionary who understood the critical role that mass viewing of NFL games on broadcast television could play in growing the league."
Tagliabue echoed Goodell's compliments.
"Art contributed to the NFLs growth and success through the performance of his teams, his recognition of the unique place our sport has in American life, his active participation in the leagues governance, and his support of civic and community organizations," Tagliabue said. "He was a trusted advisor to both Commissioner Rozelle and me during our time in office.His wisdom, knowledge and wit kept both of us grounded in the toughest of circumstances."
Modell was involved in the league for 43 seasons, 35 in Cleveland and eight in Baltimore.