WNST.net exclusive — O.J. Brigance and Ravens Ring of Honor

October 02, 2009 | Drew Forrester

The Ravens Ring of Honor was established to recognize outstanding individuals who have contributed to the success of the Ravens on the field of play since the franchise moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.

There are former Colts in that Ring of Honor and Ernest Byner’s name is on the ROH wall as well.  They are the exceptions to the rule and the Ravens are comfortable with those inclusions.   Any non-Ravens in the ROH are there to either honor the tradition of the franchise – which includes the team’s heritage in Cleveland – or NFL football in Baltimore prior to the Ravens arrival in 1996.

Recently, fans in Baltimore have started to ponder the question:  Does O.J. Brigance belong in the team’s Ring of Honor?

Brigance, as everyone knows, is the Ravens Director of Player Development.  He is currently waging a courageous battle with ALS and remains an integral part of the team’s daily life at Owings Mills and M&T Bank Stadium.  To say that O.J. Brigance is loved dearly at 1 Winning Drive would be an understatement.  Words — particularly from an outsider like me — can’t properly explain the deep affection everyone has for Brigance.

The Ravens have heard the whispers about Brigance and his candidacy for their Ring of Honor.

It’s an extremely delicate situation for the Ravens to be put in…one, frankly, they’d probably rather not tackle during the season.  These days, they’re busy trying to figure out how to win enough games to make the playoffs.  Any distraction — anything — that somehow takes time away from their ability to win games isn’t part of “The Raven Way”. 

That said, the Ravens have heard and read the “O.J. in the Ring of Honor?” question and have addressed it internally.  I’ve received a handful of e-mails over the last week or so pertaining to Brigance in the Ring of Honor and earlier this week there was a rumor floating around “out there” that the Ravens were going to induct him on October 11 at the home game against the Bengals.

The Ravens have told me they are not going to place Brigance in their Ring of Honor.   Not now, at least.  My thought – based on what I’m hearing from Owings Mills – is that someday the Ravens will do something to remember the contributions made by O.J. but it will not include his inclusion in the team’s Ring of Honor.

Glenn made an interesting observation this morning that absolutely mirrors what the Ravens are thinking with regard to Brigance and their Ring of Honor.  Sending him to midfield to accept an award and honor of that magnitude could EASILY be looked at by O.J. as a living eulogy…and he’s still waging a daily battle with ALS that does not include giving in to that awful disease.  So, in essence, while O.J. is alive and working and contributing to the organization on a daily basis, the Ravens are going to treat him the way he wants and deserves to be treated. 

O.J. himself, as a Ravens staffer said to me this week, doesn’t expect or want the ROH recognition.  He knows his name doesn’t necessarily belong up on the wall next to the likes of Jon Ogden, Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary.  And the Ravens are very careful to not put Brigance in a situation that could potentially make him uncomfortable.

The most important part of the Brigance-Ring of Honor discussion is that this really is a situation that both the Ravens and Brigance don’t need to discuss publicly.

O.J. Brigance is WELL aware of what the Ravens have done for him and the Ravens are WELL aware of what O.J. has done for them. 

It’s been a great, loving relationship that continues at Owings Mills every single day.

But it doesn’t need to be public.

Not all of it, anyway.

In this case, the Ravens aren’t going to put O.J. Brigance in their Ring of Honor, but there isn’t a day that goes by that they’re not honored to have Brigance in their lives.  And Brigance, likewise, feels honored to be a Raven every single day.