OWINGS MILLS, Md. — General manager Ozzie Newsome cannot help but wonder if he’s walking around in a dream state these days as the Ravens prepare to play in the second Super Bowl of the 17-year history of the franchise.
But it’s more than just a chance for a second championship for Newsome when you remember the only owner he knew in his first 26 years in the NFL as both a player and front office executive, the late Art Modell, and the first player he drafted in Baltimore, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, are both up for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next Saturday. Super Bowl XLVII will also mark the final game in the career of linebacker Ray Lewis, the greatest player in the history of the franchise and the second pick made by Newsome in Baltimore.
The story would be almost too perfect for the architect of one of the finest franchises in the NFL.
“That has been the little dream that the little kids have along the way when they are growing up,” Newsome said. “Wouldn’t that be nice that we’re playing in the Super Bowl, and then we have the ultimate that our ultimate warrior is going to play his last down of football in that game? I don’t think you could write a script — I don’t think any of you guys could have written that script.”
In a rare in-season session with the local media, Newsome expressed pride over the Ravens’ resolve to overcome trials, injuries, and a three-game losing streak in December to make the trip to New Orleans. Newsome labeled the city his favorite destination for a Super Bowl and admitted he began thinking about the possibility of playing in this particular Super Bowl 15 months ago, with Ogden and Modell potentially up for Hall of Fame induction in the same year.
Sentimental story lines aside, Newsome appreciates watching the team he constructed finally get back to the Super Bowl after a 12-year absence following the Ravens’ first championship in Super Boxl XXXV.
“I said this to John [Harbaugh] on the bus ride: You just don’t know how hard it is to get to the Super Bowl,” said Newsome as he reflected on the aftermath of last Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots. “It’s even harder, now you have to go and win it. But 12 years since we did this, and we got knocked out in the AFC Championship twice; it’s hard. You’ve got to manage injuries, so many different things that you have to manage just to get this opportunity, and the other 31 teams don’t care for you. It’s hard to do.”
Asked to state the case for Modell to finally be inducted posthumously after he passed away shortly before the start of the regular season, Newsome presented clear evidence for the longtime owner who relinquished control of the team to Steve Bisciotti in 2004.
Next Saturday would appear to be Modell’s last best chance for enshrinement with his memory fresh in voters’ minds and the Ravens dominating the limelight as one of the two Super Bowl entries in New Orleans.
“He was involved in the collective bargaining agreement, involved in the TV deal, involved in the merger, won a championship in 1964, won a Super Bowl, diversity [in being] the first one to hire an African American,” Newsome said. “When you look at the body of work that Art did, then why shouldn’t he be in [the Hall of Fame]? If this game is as good as it is today – and we all think we have a very good game – then Art was an architect of the game. He helped build the game for what it is.”
Modell’s long-awaited induction would be one thing, but to see Ogden earn enshrinement while Lewis rides off into the sunset with a second Vince Lombardi Trophy would be the icing on the cake after Newsome chose the pair as the newest additions to a brand-new franchise in Baltimore in 1996.
It’s enough to make Newsome not want to wake up before Super Bowl weekend.
“It’s part of the dream, I think,” said Newsome as he laughed. “I don’t know, I’ve got to pinch myself to see if I’m still dreaming.”
Mum on Flacco contract
Newsome made it clear he would not discuss contracts and other offseason topics — saving those conversations for the team’s end-of-the-year press conference following the Super Bowl — but that didn’t stop a national media member from asking about the expiring rookie deal of quarterback Joe Flacco anyway.
“I’m not discussing that,” Newsome said. “You know what? I’ve gone on record -– Joe and I have a very good understanding about his contract and where we are. End of story.”
The Ravens desperately want to reach a long-term agreement with Flacco to avoid using the franchise tag. That designation would award him an estimated salary of $14.6 million and eat up the little cap room the organization is projected to have for the 2013 season. Signing Flacco to a long-term contract would increase the chances of keeping such impending free agents as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams.
Newsome will address those issues after Feb. 3, however.
“I worry about winning today, but I’ve got to also worry about winning tomorrow,” Newsome said. “I’ve got to be able to balance those books every year.”