(Updated: 4:35 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After growing up in Ohio and rooting for the Cleveland Browns as a kid, John Harbaugh understands the emotions on display in his home state with the passing of former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell.
But the Ravens coach also believes it’s fitting for the city of Cleveland to recognize Modell’s accomplishments as a pioneer who helped shape the empire of the modern NFL. The league had requested all home NFL cities to recognize Modell this weekend, but the Browns cancelled their plan to pay tribute to Modell’s memory at the request of Art’s son David Modell.
Their initial plan to join the rest of the NFL in recognizing Modell on Sunday had sparked much debate over how the Browns should handle what undoubtedly would have been a delicate — and potentially ugly — situation.
“That’s a tremendous thing that the whole league is going to be honoring Art Modell,” said Harbaugh prior to the Browns’ decision to cancel plans to recognize the late owner. “That speaks to his impact that he had on the National Football League. It’s something I think we all in Baltimore should be proud of, and I would also say everybody in Cleveland should be proud of that as well. I think most people, most Browns fans — speaking as a former Browns fan — [are].”
Harbaugh, who also attended Miami University in Ohio, acknowledged his comments were unlikely to go over well with much of the Browns fan base, but his conviction on the subject reflects his admiration for the former Ravens owner.
“[I’ll] probably hear something about this, but that’s OK,” Harbaugh said. “For Art Modell, it’s quite alright. I think everybody feels that way — I hope.”
Approximately 3,000 Ravens fans gathered at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday to pay their respects to the late owner as his casket and the Vince Lompardy Trophy presented to Modell at the conclusion of Super Bowl XXXV were on the field for fans to view.
The Ravens plan to honor Modell prior to Monday night’s kickoff against the Cincinnati Benglas, and players will wear a decal on their helmets for the entire 2012 season.
“That is just so tremendous, such a good tribute to Art,” Harbaugh said. “To the Baltimore fans, thank you very much. We all appreciate that.”