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How the Baltimore Ravens chose city history for their team name

How the Baltimore Ravens chose city history for their team name

Before they got their name in 1996, the Baltimore Ravens, wanted the city’s NFL franchise to be known, once again, as the Colts. 

When the Cleveland Browns left for Baltimore after the 1995 NFL season, there were more pressing matters on the mind of the organization before a name was constructed. Plus, with more than a dozen lawsuits from Cleveland trying to prevent the move in the first place, the public option to discuss the name wasn’t available just yet. 

So, as the franchise’s brass internally sat down to come up with options, the name “Colts” was brought up. Baltimore owner Art Modell reached out to Jim Irsay in Indianapolis about acquiring the name. Modell thought he could get the rights for a couple million dollars, so he offered $5 million. 

Irsay came back with an offer around $25 million.

“We probably had, in the original mix, 12 to 15 names as possibilities,” longtime Ravens executive vice president of public and community relations, Kevin Byrne, recalled. “We looked at variations of horse themes to go along with the Colts...(After Irsay’s offer) Art said, ‘I think we’re going to have a different name.’” 

The Colts had been the name of the city’s team from 1953 to 1984. The team had won three NFL Championships and one Super Bowl and had one of the league’s most famous quarterbacks in Johnny Unitas. 

But in the early morning hours of March 29, 1984, the Colts famously left town on Mayflower trucks for Indianapolis. The franchise, owned by Robert Irsay, kept the name.

When football returned to Baltimore, retaining — or, in this case, buying — the Colts name back wasn’t an option. Neither was keeping the name "Browns."

“(Owner) Art (Modell) had said from the very beginning, ‘I’d love to have you go with us, but we can’t be the Baltimore Browns,’” Byrne recalled. “‘I can’t do that to the people in Cleveland. They need to keep Jim Brown and Brian Sipe and Ozzie Newsome. We have no right to take that.’ (So) I knew we were going to have a new name.”

Paired with Modell’s lack of desire to keep the name, as well as commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s commitment to bring football back to Cleveland with the original “Browns” name, Baltimore searched for a new name for its new team.

Bryne, who was with the Browns organization starting in 1981, followed the team from Cleveland to Baltimore. He announced his retirement from the organization in April. 

While the team searched for a name, he said the organization wanted a unique name that worked with the city’s history. One option was to name the team the “Americans,” a name based on the railroad history of Baltimore.

“David was really enamored with that,” Byrne recalled. “He used to chuckle, ‘We will be America’s Team, we’ll be called the Americans. We’ll have American flag on the helmet.’”

Another option was the “Marauders,” a nod to the city’s football past with the Colts, as well as the country’s past.

Then, the Ravens name was introduced. 

RELATED: HOW THE NATIONALS CHOSE THEIR NAME

It was based on a poem titled “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, who died in Baltimore in 1849 after spending the latter half of his life in the city. While the name is commonplace now, the debate raged on at the time.

“Internally, we couldn’t agree at all,” Byrne said. “One day we were discussing it and I said, ‘Why don’t we let the fans decide?’ So we went to The Baltimore Sun and asked them if they would like to be involved in a fan-vote. While we had lots of names, the three finalists we offered to the fans to vote on were Americans, Marauders and Ravens. And overwhelmingly, the fans selected Ravens.”

According to the Ravens’ website, The Sun announced a record-breaking 33,748 callers for the poll. The Ravens overwhelmingly won the poll with 22,463 votes. The Americans trailed 5,635, and Marauders 5,650.

“When we first practiced, we were the Mean Machine from ‘The Longest Yard,’” Byrne joked. “We didn’t have a logo on our helmets, we had white helmets with black jerseys. We had to kind of hurry the process.”

Once the name was chosen, colors had to be picked for the team. The pictures and descriptions the organization found of ravens showed the bird’s black figure with the look of almost purple wings. 

“In talking with the league, they told us, ‘You just can’t be black and purple, you need some white colors in there,’” Byrne said. “So we looked at the state flag which had some gold in it, had some yellow, had a little red in it, then we got those colors in to brighten up.”

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And with the name and colors decided, the Ravens were officially the NFL’s newest franchise. 

The only thing left to work out was the blending of Baltimore’s past into the future of the Ravens. Byrne credited Art Modell for making that happen. 

Former Baltimore Colt players were interested in who Art was, and many of them likened him to Robert Irsay in Indianapolis. Byrne assured them that wasn’t the case.

After Modell met with the former players and earned their trust, he set his sights on getting Unitas onboard. And with a promise to look after the NFL’s alumni from Modell, Unitas agreed to be on board with the Ravens’ organization. 

Later that year on Sept. 1 against the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens officially entered the NFL, with Baltimore Colt legends welcoming them on the field.

“John came, we had opening day with the jackets, we all lined up and Johnny presented the game ball to the referee,” Byrne said. “It was like the imprimatur from the Pope so to speak, that the Baltimore Colts were telling all the fans, ‘It’s OK to root for these guys. These guys are us.’”

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NFL unveils new Oakley mouth shield to mitigate spread of coronavirus

NFL unveils new Oakley mouth shield to mitigate spread of coronavirus

Get your styling Ray-Bans ready for Sunday's this fall. 

In a partnership with Oakley, the NFL took another step on Wednesday evening in figuring out how to best go forth with the 2020 season in the safest possible way. The league unveiled its all-new mouth shields as the latest piece of technology to try and ensure football Sunday's won't be another item added to the long list of cancelations this year. 

With a large focus of the company's lifestyle products going towards an irrefutable style, it's no wonder Oakley decided to use the slick black Baltimore Ravens helmets to demonstrate. 

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES FINEABLE VIOLATIONS OF COVID CONDUCT

But in all seriousness, the impact these mouth shields can have seems to be more than ten-fold in an ever-changing society from a health and safety perspective. As one of the most contact-filled sports there is, professional football is going to have to adapt to life under a pandemic and these innovative new features are doing well to do just that. 

According to an NFL release, the mouth shields fit right inside the inner-linings of the facemask and sport skinny slits in it to enhance breathing capabilities while reducing air particle transmission.

It's still in the drafting phases of constructing the best possible helmet additions, and after players and manufacturers send some notes back to Oakley and the NFL, the mouth shields will surely improve. 

While it seems unlikely there is going to be a final version of the mouth shields that completely eliminate the chances of contracting COVID-19, it's going to be technology like this that will make the 2020 season a possibility. 

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Ravens WR Willie Snead: ‘Can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t’

Ravens WR Willie Snead: ‘Can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t’

Willie Snead IV can’t imagine what fall would look like without football.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NFL to adjust its offseason schedule, each team around the league scrambled to make changes to its offseason programs. 

By all accounts, the Ravens have made things as easy as possible for players to make the transition in Owings Mills to remain socially distant. Their hope is to make playing actual games — still not a guarantee — as easy as possible.

Despite challenges in Major League Baseball, there’s not a lot of doubt from people around the league about whether a season can happen.

“I know basketball is going,” Snead said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday. “I know baseball is going right now. But, when football comes around, can you imagine the fall with no football at all? I mean, I can’t. So, it’s going to be an adjustment without fans, especially in training camp, but I know once we start rolling on Sundays, I know the whole environment in our nation is going to change.”

Around the facility, players are constantly being reminded to keep their distance, wash their hands and wear their masks.

“I feel like, here, they’re doing a great job of just having everything...Locker rooms — we got separated lockers,” Marquise Brown said. “We got monitors to track how close we are to people. They’re making it as safe as possible, and that was something that everybody was skeptical about — how it would be. But once we got here, we were like, ‘This could work.’”

Both Snead and Brown made significant changes to their bodies in quarantine, as Snead dropped seven pounds and Brown added about 20. In quarantine, there was still a sense of normalcy as both players worked out for the upcoming season. 

RELATED: Mark Ingram sees COVID-19 issues with MLB, preaches positive mindset

At the Ravens’ facility, however, with all the precautionary measures in place, there’s no real escape from how different the 2020 season is set to be. 

“You have to take these tests every day,” Snead said. “Coming in, we had to wait a week to get in the building, which was different. But once we got into the building, I could just tell the Ravens organization in itself took that next step of making sure everybody is safe. Everybody is doing everything they have to do to make sure that we are all being safe, staying clean, and just making sure that we are taking care of ourselves, at the end of the day.”

With those specific measures in place the hope is to have a full, and as normal as possible, regular season.

“I know the NFL and the NFLPA took the best steps to make sure that we can have football this year,” Snead said. “And when it comes down to it, every guy has to hold themself accountable to make sure that they’re ready for Sundays, they’re healthy for Sundays. And hopefully, we can make sure this thing goes all the way.”

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