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Steve McNair in Nashville

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Latest updates on Steve McNair murder here…

Posted on 04 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

UPDATED 4:54 p.m. — Nashville police have now confirmed Steve McNair’s death was indeed a murder. More at The Tennessean including: “A Sunday morning autopsy revealed that McNair was shot four times – twice in the head, twice in the chest. His girlfriend, 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, died of a gunshot wound to the side of the head. A semi-automatic pistol was found on the floor under her body.

But it will take many days of interviews with their families and friends and witnesses who saw McNair out on the town Friday night before police will rule whether the deaths were a murder-suicide or a double homicide.

“While it is clear McNair’s death is a homicide, the police department is not classifying Kazemi’s death, pending further investigation and interviews with persons who knew her and McNair,” police spokesman Don Aaron said at press conference this afternoon.

“We can’t be close-minded,” Aaron said. “All scenarios are on the table.”

The autopsy showed the two had died in the early hours of Saturday morning, hours before their bodies were discovered by a friend of McNair’s who had a key to the Second Avenue condominium.

Police are still waiting for the results of ballistics tests that could indicate whether Kazemi’s wound was self-inflicted. Toxicology tests will take weeks.”

Rumors are swirling wildly around the deaths and Aaron attempted to answer, or shoot down, the most common. The initial autopsy did not indicate that Kazemi was pregnant. Both victims were found fully clothed. It is not yet known who owns the pistol that was found at the scene. Steve McNair is listed in a state database as having a permit to carry a handgun.”

Kazemi, who was pulled over last Thursday and charged with drunk driving while McNair was in the passenger seat of the Escalade they co-owned, has no other criminal record in Davidson County, Aaron said. Police are conducting interviews with their friends, hoping to piece together their relationship.

“We’ve already begun talking to their friends to ascertain any squabbles they were having, were they upset with each other and if so, why,” Aaron said.

McNair was the 36th homicide victim in Nashville this year.

UPDATED 3:24 p.m. — Overnight, the internet became a feeding frenzy with speculation from various media outlets in Nashville with all sorts of “sources” and “rumors” about the tragic death of former Ravens quarterback Steve McNair. Most are speculating that it was a “murder-suicide” but clearly, this story will be taking on a life of its own in the coming hours and days in light of the autopsy and homocide investigation.

Steve McNair in Nashville
It’s a horrendous Sunday on many levels for the McNair family, the Titans, the fans of the NFL and McNair’s many friends, teammates and associates. At the bottom of this post and to the right in wnsTV you can see that Steve McNair enjoyed being with fans. He was extremely gracious with the hundreds of Ravens fans he came to meet at Limelight six months ago on the night before the Ravens-Titans game.

The initial media reports have all of the signs of sensationalism, sex, violence, fame and intrigue that surely will launch a sea of stories, sources and leaking of information. Some of it will be “bad” info and some will be accurate.

Below, I’ve simply linked out to to a variety of the best and most reliable reports and have aggregated the information. These are NOT WNST.net “sources.” They are simply links and information as media outlets in Tennessee are reporting them and in a “timeline” fashion over the past 24 hours.
McNair's alleged girlfriend

UPDATED Sunday 3:24 p.m.: Kazemi’s sister: “She would never kill anyone, ever” …

More from The Tennessean: The sister of Sahel Kazemi says she was a young woman who wanted to have fun and couldn’t have hurt anyone – not herself, nor anyone else.

Kazemi was actually the aunt of Sepideh Salmani, but they were raised as sisters. Salmani’s mother adopted her when she was 9, after Kazemi’s mother was killed in their native Iran. Salmani talked to her sister every day, and said she was very happy in her relationship with Steve McNair.

She doesn’t believe her sister killed McNair, or herself.

“She was one, young girl who had so many dreams that they never came true,” Salmani said. “She would never kill anyone, ever. Or anything. Not even a little bug. I want people to know that.”

An autopsy has been ongoing this morning. A press conference is scheduled this afternoon to discuss the findings.

Metro police have said that McNair was found sitting on the sofa, shot several times. Kazemi was lying on the floor with a single gunshot to the head and a pistol near her body.

UPDATED 11:08 p.m. — The Tennessean reports the girl’s name and many key new news items: Former Titans quarterback Steve McNair was killed in an apparent murder-suicide with a young woman he met at a local restaurant and have been dating for at least a few months.

McNair, the hometown hero who did extensive charity work in Nashville, died of several gunshots and was found on the sofa, police said. Sahel Kazemi, 20, was found alongside him in a Second Avenue condo he rented. She had a single gunshot wound to her head; a pistol was found near her body.
Sahel Kazemi

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said they were leaning toward certain scenarios based on the evidence, but they hadn’t ruled anything out. Still, they were not actively looking for suspects Saturday night.

“The medical examiner will be conducting autopsies (Sunday),” Aaron said. “We expect to make additional conclusions after the autopsy process.”

Though much of the attention was on the Second Avenue crime scene, police also swarmed at the Cherry Creek apartment complex in Hermitage. They were questioning neighbors who said they often saw McNair visiting Kazemi. Sometimes, neighbors said, she would arrive home in a limousine in the early morning hours. She showed up with a new black car she said was a gift from her boyfriend.

She was arrested in that car, a black Cadillac Escalade registered to she and McNair, just two days before the deaths. She was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test.

Keith Norfleet, Kazemi’s boyfriend for four years before they broke up five months ago, said he came to pick up the car for Kazemi.

Norfleet said McNair was in the car with her when the stop occurred, a fact that was not in the police affadavit but was confirmed by police Saturday night. McNair later bailed Kazemi out, according to bail bondsmen.

Norfleet said she told him she was seeing McNair, who she met while working as a waitress at Dave & Busters. He was worried about her dating a married man and hopeful they’d get back together. They had been living together for four years, since they moved from her family’s home in Jacksonville, Fla., to Nashville.

“She is the sweetest girl, and she did not deserve this,” Norfleet said upon learning of her death. “He was making her believe they were going to be together, and everything would be perfect.” Though they were broken up, Norfleet said they’d been speaking a lot recently and she planned to break it off with McNair. He said she banged on her door early Saturday morning, but he didn’t get there fast enough.

“She was a very strong, independent girl. A hard worker,” Norfleet said. “I mean, she had a huge heart. She was very caring, very loving.”

UPDATED 10:28 p.m. — Here’s the raciest report on the web, this one from NashvillePost.com: The pair died of apparent gunshots wounds and were found in a condominium at 2nd and Lea Avenues in Rutledge Hill. The woman, sources say, was approximately 20 years of age.

While Metro Police has reported that details are sketchy, NashvillePost.com sources say that at approximately 2 a.m. Saturday morning, McNair was celebrating the holidays at the Blue Moon Restaurant near the John C. Tune Airport.

According to the same NashvillePost.com sources, a white woman in her early 20s, around 5-foot-4, approached McNair at the restaurant and accused him of slipping her a “roofie” a year ago.

The woman then told McNair, according to sources, that her boyfriend was going to kill him.

Roofie is a slang term for Rohypnol, a sedative dating back to the early 1970s that is used in hospitals for deep sedation, but is now a fairly infamous date-rape drug.

Multiple sources have confirmed that this information has been shared with the Metro Police Department. Metro Police has yet to identify the dead woman, but is it unknown if the woman at the restaurant is the same woman found in the condo.

UPDATED 10:21 p.m. — According To The Tennessean.com: A car registered to Steve McNair and a 20-year-old woman was stopped two days ago on Broadway. The driver and co-owner, Sahel Kazemi, was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test. The car was a 2007 black Cadillac Escalade.

Earlier today, a black Escalade was towed from the condominium complex on Second Avenue where McNair and a female who has not yet been identified by police were found dead this afternoon.

UPDATED 8:58 p.m. — From The Tennessean.com: “Wayne Neely, who also rents a condominium with McNair, arrived to find the bodies inside the condo on Lea Avenue off Second Avenue South, said Metro police spokesman Don Aaron.

The building at 105 Lea Avenue is registered to Charles Cardwell.

McNair appears to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds, Aaron said.

McNeely and another man, Robert Gaddy, were interviewed by police and released, Aaron said.

A Cadillac Escalade and a Lincoln Navigator were towed away from the scene.”

UPDATED 8:51 p.m. — NewsChannel 5 is Nashville is reporting: “According to police, there were no signs of forced entry at the crime scene. While the female victim’s identity has not been released, police are confirming she is not Mechelle McNair.”

UPDATED 7:03 p.m. –Reuters is now reporting Steve McNair’s death as “an apparent murder-suicide.”

UPDATED 6:25 p.m. — Steve McNair has been found murdered in downtown Nashville along with another unidentified woman. Rumors are swirling about McNair’s social life and how he was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head along with a female at a condominium off of 2nd Ave. in downtown Nashville and this story is less than two hours old.

McNair was found dead after 3 p.m. EST and Nashville Public Information Officer Don Aaron held a brief press conference at 4:45 p.m. and said that that two victims exist, a male and a female. “We now know that the male deceased is Steve McNair.”

“At this point we don’t know the circumstances of these shooting deaths. The investigation is going to be conducted by the police department’s centralized homocide unit. Those detectives have assembled here at the scene and the condominium still has to be processed. There’s a lot of work left to be done and it’s going to take many hours to process the scene and I don’t have any answers for you now as to what’s happened, who’s responsible and what the circumstances are.”

CNN.com said a “enforcement source close to the investigation said the woman is McNair’s girlfriend and that the residence is her condominium in downtown Nashville. Witnesses said he was a frequent visitor there.”

Obviously, we’ll be following this story but the video below is the way we best remember Steve McNair, who dropped by our WNST Nashville pre-game party back at Limelight in January and spent an hour chatting with purple fans everywhere and raising money for his Air McNair Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House here in Baltimore. This is a major shock to all of us who knew Steve.

Derrick Mason just appeared on ESPN and was “in shock. Steve spent a lot of time with his family. We ran into each other. We saw each other. During the season, we built a close bond throughout the years that not too many people can build. It’s still shocking to me. It’s just something that’s hard for you to believe until it all sinks in and you get all of the information.”

“Steve’s passion for the game, how relentless he was. Going out there and making sure we had a chance to win a game. Off the field, it was the same way. He was a guy who was happy and very generous. He’d give you the shirt off of his back. I knew if he could help you, he would.”

“His legacy is his toughness. I think that’s what people will remember him for. He’d play through anything. I hope off the field, he’ll be remembered as a good man.”

This video will show you the gentle and affable side of McNair, who worked the room at Limelight in January and couldn’t have been more available to the Baltimore fans in his hometown:

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Unleash the fury…Harry Kalas and other “non-radio” tidbits

Posted on 29 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

First, I hope Ray Bachman has fun doing the show from 2 til 6 today. (He won’t admit it, but he really loves talking sports and doing the show. And he loves when I’m not there.)

I’m having a “business/strategy” day of respite and I’ve been catching up on sports since 11 p.m. last night when Bruce Springsteen walked off the stage at the Spectrum. (Set list here…)

I watched the Washington Caps win Game 7 on the DVR but only after someone in my life who will remain “unnamed” wrecked my evening by texting me the result while Springsteen was in the middle of singing “She’s The One.” (MAKE A NOTE OF THIS: DO NOT EVER TEXT YOUR FRIENDS A SCORE!!!! A simple, “Hey dude…do you want to know who’s winning?” would suffice. And, honestly, with the score of any game in the universe a click away on my phone why would I want you to wreck my midnight viewing by texting me the result. It’s just unacceptable!)

But, I digress…

Alas, I did watch the game in its entirety this morning (and it’s NOTHING like not knowing the result) and the Capitals are as lucky to be headed to the second round as the Ravens were to escape Nashville three months ago. That third period was amazing and the vibe at the phonebooth looked electric. I missed a pretty special evening, but these are the decisions and memories you create.

(Gotta admit, when Springsteen played “Fire” by request last night and was rocking “Land of Hope and Dreams” I wasn’t thinking about the Caps. And I had no idea someone would send me a random “Caps win” text.)

There’s nothing better in professional sports than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. Last night’s win was a memorable evening. These are the games the Caps have consistently lost for a whole generation.

As for the sport itself, I even got a few emails this morning from former “doubters” who watched last night’s game and are more “believers” than they were 24 hours ago. Hockey kinda does that to you.

I saw Brent Harris at Ravens Camp on Sunday. His beard is scraggly. The Comcast Sportsnet/Caps promotion for the beardathon is great. I wish I had participated in someway but I look beyond crappy with a beard. (Insert joke here…)

I’m monitoring the Orioles today as well. Mora comes back, gets three hits and Adam Eaton looked, well, like Adam Eaton and his 7.17 ERA. Let’s see how Koji Uehara does against the Halos.

****

One other note, my pal who is a Philadelphia sports fan dropped this one on me this morning:

Here’s his running commentary:

“The biggest mistake the Orioles ever made was getting rid of Jon Miller. What I’ve realized through this whole Harry Kalas thing is how badly they messed that up. Baltimore had its Harry Kalas and Angelos chased him off.

“The players all come and go. Harry Kalas is something that can’t be replaced by Mike Schmidt or Steve Carlton. He’ll live longer than Dutch Daulton or Lenny Dykstra or Curt Schilling. They’re all gone. Harry was eternal. I’ve got Harry Kalas on my ipod, man!

“Jon Miller should have been the Orioles announcer until he chose to die in the broadcast booth. Those days are done. Miller is the last of those radio guys.

(My pal didn’t mention Chuck Thompson, but I will…and Eckman and Steadman and all of those guys who Baltimore loved with their Orioles and Colts and Bullets and Clippers and horse racing and crab cakes.)

“No one listens to baseball anymore on the radio anymore. Kalas was only doing one inning a night on radio. He’d do the first three innings of TV, only fourth inning on radio and then the 8th and 9th on TV. Kalas was bigger than the radio or the TV. He was eternal.

“That’s the biggest mistake. No matter what happens to Nick Markakis or what he ever does, Jon Miller would’ve been there before him and after him.

“When you’ve got him, you’re guaranteed to have an ambassador for your team.”

Amen, Philly friend. Amen.

Clearly, Peter Angelos didn’t see it that way. And his vote was the only one that counted.

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Adam Eaton pitches a gem, Birds beat Pale Hose 6-0

Posted on 23 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, just when you think you’ve seen it all, right? Tonight Adam Eaton, the former O’s No. 5 starter, went 7 1/3 innings and held even his harshest skeptics spellbound with a dazzling 6-hit, 9-strikeout effort while surrendering just two runs upon his exit in the EIGHTH inning.

Lo and behold, the Orioles have won yet another series, beating the White Sox 6-2 tonight at Camden Yards. Everyone got into the act with some offense. Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton and even Felix Pie contributed two hits and Adam Jones, Nick Markakis Luke Scott and Cesar Izturis also got hits.

I think Buck Martinez did himself proud with this profound statement: “I like pitchers but I’m happy to have seen only three of them tonight!” Amen, Buck!

The game was a brisk 2:31 affair. Good pitching. Good hitting. Hasty baseball. There were only about 6,000 there but they were treated to an old-school Orioles effort tonight.

Adam Eaton showed some heart tonight. The offense battled early, stranding runners all over the place. But they proved tough. Next up: Koji Uehara and the Rangers and the Saturday “doubleheader” with purple caps.

Bring on the summer weather!

9:15 p.m. — Adam Eaton just walked off the hill to a standing ovation from about 6,000 faithful at Camden Yards tonight. I’ve been watching in amazement as he looks like Steve Stone in his prime to me. Maybe the Steve Stone appearance on WNST yesterday made me think about his greatness during the 1980 season.

His line against the Chicago White Sox is a gem by any standard: 7 1/3 IP, 6H, 0R, oW, 9 strikeouts.

WOW. I’ve been speechless most of the night. Who knew? Late maturity? A one-night wonder? The beginning of a trend?

Of course, at 102 pitches, Dave Trembley just came to get him and he’ll rest up to go again next week.

It’s 6-0 Birds up in the 8th. Jim Johnson is trying to get the White Sox back into the game with the bases loaded.

The crowd tonight looks so light on TV that they’re having trouble finding packs of people standing together to shoot. I’ve honestly never seen it more empty than the last two nights.

I hope the Ravens giving tickets away actually gets some people to walk in on Saturday night. And the weather is supposed to be crazy good!

Jim Thome has just knocked in two runs. So much for the shutout…

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Orlando Pace coming to Baltimore?

Posted on 18 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Ozzie Newsome continues to recruit, court and host more veteran NFL players. The next two days figure to be busy as word leaked late tonight that veteran St. Louis Rams tackle Orlando Pace is scheduled to come to Baltimore, according to NBCSports.com. In addition, the Ravens have also cut Samari Rolle and signed Chris Carr.

On Thursday, the Ravens will hold a press conference with Ray Lewis, Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome officially re-welcoming No. 52 back to the only home he’s ever known in Owings Mills. The line of questioning and what the press conference indicates will be of great interest to many Ravens fans who saw Lewis’ negotiating tactics as an embarrassment to his legendary status here in Baltimore. All the talk of the Jets and Cowboys will no doubt be revisited, even if the event does figure to have a “time limit” on it due to it being held during halftime of the Maryland Terps’ first-round game against California in Kansas City.

But Ozzie Newsome, just as he said a few weeks ago, clearly isn’t done with the free agency period.

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Steve Bisciotti’s Thursday dilemma: Ray or Gary?

Posted on 16 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I sorta knew that Bob Haynie’s “schlep rock” (or whatever the hell he calls it) would be at work on the Maryland Terps this weekend when the Baltimore Ravens called a 4 p.m. Thursday press conference in Owings Mills to march Ray Lewis out to the local firing squad for questions about loyalty, community, commitment, Hall of Fame inevitability and his future plans as a “Baltimorean” among other inquires. But now word broke around 11 p.m. last night that the Maryland Terps will be in the second half of their game against the California Golden Bears in Kansas City at that hour on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

So, that begs the question, where will Steve Bisciotti be at 4 p.m. on Thursday? Hmmmm…

Bisciotti broke his long silence on the Gary Williams/friendship/support/vote of confidence front last week, getting front page love in The Sun with “I love Gary” quotes and basically stating that the reason he’s a Maryland financial backer during these tough economic times is because Gary Williams is the coach.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I gotta think Bisciotti’s never, ever missed a March Madness postseason game? He’s the biggest Terp fan of them all. He IS Hell in a Shell!!!

So, what’s gonna happen here? Something’s gotta give, right?

Prediction: Someone over in Owings Mills (Kevin Byrne?) is gonna have to pick up the phone and get with Ray Lewis and “re-sort out” this press conference on Thursday to accommodate scheduling for local hoops mania. There’s no way the Ravens can do this thing in the middle of the Terps game.

And besides, the press conference won’t have the same impact without Bisciotti. And Bisciotti must be in Kansas City (at least that’s what I think…)

What do you think?

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Stover says he’s gone…so who gets the job?

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

With Matt Stover telling the world tonight that the Ravens have given him the boot (OK, sorry, just to had get that in there), the biggest question now is…

Is it a mistake to let Stover go?

My answer:  I have no idea if it’s a good move until I see who they bring in to replace him.

A slew of free-agent kickers are available.  Some are of decent quality, some are not. 

I wrote about the kicking issue five days ago at WNST.net…you can check out the stats of a couple who are still free agents.

Two names in that blog are no longer available.  Mike Nugent signed with Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Jay Feely re-signed with the New York Jets on Thursday.  With Nugent moving to Tampa Bay, it would appear Matt Bryant is out of job.  Here are his numbers.

Matt Stover hinted on Thursday that the Jets were a possible destination for him now that the Ravens have sent him on his way.  I assume that was BEFORE the Jets brought Feely back into the fold.  With Feely returning, Stover doesn’t have an option to join Rex Ryan at the Meadowlands.

Stover can still kick – successfully – in the NFL.  If Hall of Fame voters took kicking seriously, as they should, #3 would be in Canton someday.  He’s been that good.

I talked to a Ravens official yesterday and he said the team’s biggest concern with Stover has more to do with the team’s need for two kickers than a general concern about Matt’s actual place-kicking production.  

“The coaching staff would have to battle every game to decide whether to put (Steve) Hauschka on the game-day roster or another special teams guy,” said the staffer.  “You would rather not deal with that issue in a perfect world.  Dressing two kickers is a luxury and those roster spots are precious on game-day.”

The Ravens perfect world no longer includes Matt Stover.

So, back to the original question we go.

Who’s the new kicker?

Shaun Suisham?  Not as consistent as Stover.  

John Carney?  He (44) is OLDER than Stover (41). 

Martin Gramatica?  He’s only attempted 24 kicks in the last 4 years.  Injury prone.

Or, do the Ravens just hand the job over to Hauschka and say, “Keep making kicks, kid, and you’ll have a job here.”   That’s a fairly risky proposition, particularly when one game, one win or one missed 44 yarder can cost you a trip to the post-season.  Sure, you have to give a young player his trial at some point, but field goal kicking is some high-wire stuff.  Better be able to handle the pressure.

Kicking being what it is, it’s easy to determine if a guy is a “good replacement” or a bad one.

Does he make kicks?  Does he win a game from 42-yards out with 4 seconds to play?  Does he kick the ball deep enough on kick-offs and help your team with field position?

If he does, he’s employable.

If he doesn’t, he’s not.

Stover was always reliable and that’s why he spent 17 years in the league.  

Let’s hope the next guy is reliable too.

If he isn’t, it was a bad move to boot Matt Stover right now.

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Strange daze for Ray Lewis and the Ravens

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve had the rare good fortune that most of you haven’t had over the past six weeks. Sometimes it kinda gets lost on me that as a media member for 25 years here in Baltimore, I get to do what every PSL owner and fan would love to do: actually sit with Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis and ask them questions.

In one eight day span last month, I got to sit with Bisciotti in Owings Mills (on video here) and with Ray Lewis in Tampa (one of four videos here) and ask them the exact same question: “Do you think this contract thing could get awkward for you?”

Both of them sort of skirted the question. You can see their exact answers for yourself with a click so there’s no need for me to transcribe here. The bottom line is this: I think six weeks later it’s a pretty fair question and I give myself bonus journalism points for asking the question of both men. I really don’t know if anyone had mentally taken the “free agency” train into the reality of yesterday’s situation and lo and behold, yesterday, the day of reckoning arrived and it wasn’t pretty and still stands to potentially get uglier.

It is the strangest of strange days for the organization, for Ray Lewis and most certainly for the fans who just want to know what’s going on. From WNST.net to AM 1570 to all of our Facebook accounts, Baltimore was abuzz with “Raymania” all day Friday.

Is he staying? Is he going? Will it be the Cowboys? Or the Broncos? Or the Jets? Or some darkhorse team we didn’t know was in the mix? Plenty of other players were on private lear jets and commercial flights and the NFL free agency media web mania began in earnest just after midnight. Hell, I got a text message from Peter King about Bart Scott at 2:15 AM! (No, I’m not kidding!) For the record, Peter King gave me the Namath guarantee at 8:15 a.m. this morning that Bart Scott would be a New York Jet by the end of the day. (I have no idea when the man sleeps but I love him!)

But as Jason Brown was running off to sign a $37.5 million deal with the lowly St. Louis Rams (so long JB…we’ll miss ya, man!) and Bart Scott was trying on a green cap and bringing Hot Sauce to the Big Apple, Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida trying to do damage control. And as we all know, public relations isn’t No. 52’s strong suit.

Let’s count the stories, tales and tacky details of this messy – and yes ‘AWKWARD’ – negotiation.

It started right after the Steelers beat the Ravens in Pittsburgh. Ray Lewis ducked the media and all questions about his future. Fair enough. Ten days later he sat on our set at Radio Row in Tampa for 15 minutes (his first interview with me since 1999) and talked a LOT about God deciding his fate. He told Anita Marks even less than that and she asked softballs as usual so nothing came from that “public appearance.”

About five days later in preparation for the Pro Bowl, he was canoodling with Jamie Dukes in a “shoot” interview on the sands of Hawaii. He openly and happily broached the possibilities of becoming a New York Jet and/or a Dallas Cowboy. Fans here in Baltimore bristled more than a little. Word is strong that Steve Bisciotti bristled as well (I have no confirmation on that one, just the same rumors you’ve heard!) He decided to pass on an in-game field interview with Andrea Kramer of NBC during the Pro Bowl, eliminating the possibility of putting his foot in his mouth.

And so for nearly a month, we’ve fielded call after call, read words upon words about what the outcome of “Ray-Gate” would be in 2009. Would No. 52 be a “Raven for life” or would he take the autumn of his Hall of Fame career elsewhere for a larger payday?

Many observations exist:

Ray has closed his Canton BBQ restaurant and is ready to move on…

Ray is perturbed that the Ravens have only offered him $12 million in guaranteed money…

Ray told Demarcus Ware he wants to be a Dallas Cowboy…

Ray (heart) Rex Ryan…

Blah, blah, blah. It was all “talk is cheap” kinda stuff in anticipation of Black Friday, the day Ray Lewis would head for greener pastures (and maybe not even the Jets?)

And when yesterday finally came, when the time came for the owners to open their pocketbooks via their GM’s and personnel folks and everyone from Albert Haynesworth to Bart Scott to Jason Brown to Ryan Fitzpatrick was jetting off somewhere to have a press conference and some free appetizers, future Hall of Famer and Baltimore legend Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida waiting for the phone call from the second wife that never came. Like Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn in the greenroom in New York on the third Saturday of April, he paced the cage waiting for someone other than Ozzie Newsome to show up with a Brink’s truck.

And, worst of all, NFL.com’s very respected Adam Schefter reported a source close to Ray Lewis (clearly believed to be Rod Woodson or Deion Sanders, since they are co-workers of Schefter and co-friends on No. 52’s speed dial) as saying Ray was “done” with the Ravens and offended beyond repair. That report surfaced around 9 a.m. By 4 p.m. and with seven solid hours of silence and a major disturbance from the fan base here in Baltimore, apparently Lewis had heard enough and called Woodson in Los Angeles to retract, run away from or disassociate himself with anything regarding purple potty talk and Jerry Jones. Of course, we’d love to know who or what entity is giving Ray Lewis this “advice” on public relations and skilled negotiation since his real agent David Dunn is in the NFL’s pokey for being a lousy agent.

Which brings us to today, Day Two of free agency: what does this mean for Ray Lewis and Ravens?

Well, if Ozzie Newsome were being honest – really honest – he’d probably tell you that he would’ve predicted this all along. That Ray Lewis would be sitting by the phone and it wouldn’t be ringing because his offer was always going to be the best offer. He’d probably come completely clean and say in his Southern drawl, “I had it all sized up from the beginning. I gave him what he’s worth, maybe even more than he’s worth to any other team. He’ll be a Raven because we want him the most and we’ll pay him the most. But he might have to sit at home by the phone and find that out on his own.”

I had several league insiders tell me that Ray Lewis was going to get his feelings hurt yesterday and they were right.

Of course, Newsome will never say that. But I will. Newsome has said publicly that it would only take one team, one major offer to Ray Lewis to change the game and the course. It was never even intimated that Newsome would move off of his “number” for Ray Lewis. You know the Newsome credo: right player, right price. And everyone from Steve Bisciotti down said that the owner would stay out of this negotiation.

The Ravens are reportedly offering Ray Lewis – a 34-year old aging superstar on a team that was four minutes away from the Super Bowl – about $17 million in guaranteed fresh money for the autumn of his career and some sort of “implied” final contract to make him a “Raven for life.” He’ll be lauded and feted into perpetuity here in Baltimore as a legend. Bob Haynie, Drew Forrester and I had the debate last week at Sullivan’s Steakhouse about whether No. 52 is on the Baltimore “Mount Rushmore.”

Now, the question remains: Will he take the Ravens deal?

Or are his feelings really hurt? Did he really want the Cowboys to call? Was all of this about getting leverage to push the negotiation with the Ravens, who’ve never wavered from the fact that they want Ray Lewis forever? Or was his “mystery” NFL Network friend telling the truth, that Ray Lewis is less than thrilled about continuing his career in Baltimore?

Who knows if we’ll ever know?

But you have to believe that we’re now past the point where his phone will be ringing with a higher offer later in the weekend from Jerry Jones or Pat Bowlen. If a team was serious about Ray Lewis, wouldn’t they have called already? And wouldn’t he be gone already?

We know one thing: Daniel Snyder didn’t want him to be a Redskin!

Strange daze indeed.

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Has Ray Lewis vs. Ravens turned ugly already this morning?

Posted on 27 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Adam Schefter of NFL.com just posted a bombshell on the Ravens and Ray Lewis on the league’s official website. Schefter, quoting ties close to Lewis, says that Lewis is miffed beyond repair at the offer from the Ravens and the negotiating and that Lewis will not be coming back to Baltimore. Essentially, Schefter says that Ray Lewis will sign anywhere BUT Baltimore. Or potentially retire (which we find VERY hard to believe).

I’ve been saying for years – YES, YEARS – that when it was time to end his playing days in Baltimore that I would be shocked if it ended with peace, harmony and that long-awaited “statue” of Ray Lewis wearing his No. 52 at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s fairy tale stuff and gives us the warm fuzzies but it’s always been a longshot given the economic climate for a 34-year old linebacker whose legend will now outweigh his future contributions.

My views are well founded and well researched after 13 years of following Lewis’ career here and his business dealings. Ray’s play on the field has been superhuman. His “off the field” decisions have always been a bit suspect and flawed. I have simply called Ray Lewis “mercurial.” Just the fact that this story has been written from “inside the league” shows how emotional this is becoming.

The fact that free agency has begun and that Lewis is up for the highest bidder should be a clear indicator that he’s not loyal to Baltimore or the Ravens in any significant way. Perhaps Bisciotti has been naïve in believing that it would never come to this.

But it has.

Ray Lewis is a free agent today. He can go anywhere he wants to go. The Ravens feel like they’ve been fair. We’re 11 hours into free agency and no one has truly topped their number — not yet, anyway. And word is coming from Camp 52 that Ray is quite unhappy with the treatment and offer he’s received from the Ravens. Is it posturing? Who knows?

Meanwhile, last night the Ravens leaked to their media partner that they’ve upped their guaranteed money to $17 million.

But the battle is public now and Ray’s “feelings” come from a very credible source, the very source employed by the league to report accurately on these matters.

Schefter’s views are there and a click away, but today’s topic will be quite heated at 2 p.m. when “Limited Access” brought to you by Royal Farms convenes.

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Ravens: “We’re reluctant to franchise Ray”

Posted on 21 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

The year-end press conference at Owings Mills today didn’t produce much real news.  There were questions about nearly every facet of the organization and most of those were summed up here in Nestor’s live blog from 1 Winning Drive.

The hot button topic with Owner Steve Bisciotti centered on the team’s desire to re-sign Ray Lewis and to what extent Bisciotti will be involved in those discussions.

“We want Ray to sign here and we’re confident he will, “Bisciotti said,  “But that’s ultimately up to Ozzie to work out in concert with Ray’s agent.”

Both Bisciotti and a Ravens official commented on the potential use of the “franchise tag” for Lewis if the team fails to sign him to a deal by late February.

“Again, that’s really Ozzie’s area, but I don’t see franchising Ray as our best solution,” Bisciotti remarked.

A Ravens staffer told me later: “We’d be reluctant to franchise Ray simply due to the fact that we’re not looking to have a yearly negotiating session with him.  Ozzie and his agent will strike a deal or they won’t. Putting the franchise tag on him only puts off it for another year and Ray’s not getting any younger.”

One veteran Ravens player told me on Monday that Ray spoke about “next year” with several of the players following Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.  “There wasn’t one moment where he said, ‘If I’m here next year’ or ‘if we’re all together again next year’ when he spoke after the game.  Everything was ‘this is what we need to do next season and here’s what we learned this year that we can carry over to next year’. Ray will be back. His heart lives in Baltimore.” 

Rumors continue to float around about the Dallas Cowboys having interest in Ray Lewis, but those stories are as wild as tales of the tooth fairy and Jack and the Beanstalk.  For starters, the Cowboys can not even talk with Lewis or his agent until March 1st.  And, if the league learned that Dallas officials have engaged in conversations with Lewis about 2009 and beyond, tampering charges would be filed and the verdict would be quick and decisive.  The Cowboys franchise would suffer greatly if they were found guilty of that kind of conduct.

Don’t believe for one minute that the Dallas Cowboys have talked to Ray Lewis about a $25 million contract/signing bonus, because they haven’t.

That’s not to say that Dallas might not make him an offer if Ray becomes a free agent in March.

But, for now, the only team permitted to negotiate with Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens and they plan on doing everything they can to have him signed prior to the beginning of the March 1st free agency period.

Last summer, the Ravens proposed a new contract to Lewis that included a $12 million signing bonus and #52 politely declined.  His agent floated the $20 million figure out there and the Ravens politely declined.

I’m sure Ray’s price tag has gone up now that the Ravens have produced a 13-6 season and advanced to the AFC title game.  That’s the gamble Ozzie took when he offered a $12 million bonus last August.  

If it doesn’t get settled soon, things might not be so polite in March.

Ray Lewis will sign with the Ravens and finish his career in Baltimore.  But it’s going to cost the Ravens some serious money.

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What’s in a name?

Posted on 21 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Today is Day Two of being “back on the air” for me. Yesterday was a lot of fun and just prepping for a daily show brings back many memories of the 13 years where I did four hours a day every day with guests, calls, concepts, promotions and laughs. So far, I’m really enjoying the thoughts of being back on the radio for a while. And people have been super nice with a bunch of kind emails, well wishes and general happiness.

But with the new show comes a few questions, including what the name of the show should be. I literally never gave it any thought until I went back on the air and bristled at the thought of calling the show the “Sports Forum,” which was its name for all 13 years of its existence (except for the two years when I did “Nasty Nationwide”). It’s a new show, a new time and I’m 40 years old now, so anything “Nasty” is off limits at this point. I just want to be Nestor and do a show and have some fun interacting with people who grew up (or are who are currently growing up) loving Baltimore sports.

So, the suggestions have been rolling in on email. So far:

“Fulltime”

“Afternoon drive”

“No access” (so far, this is my favorite, a nod to Greg Bader and Peter Angelos who continue to pretend that Baltimore’s No. 1 online sports media entity don’t exist)

And of course, there are the emails telling me to get the hell back off the air and hire someone else. I am amused by these as well! All contributions are welcome!

If anyone has some suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments here.

I’ll be back on the air at 2 p.m. ready to chat about this morning’s Steve Bisciotti/John Harbaugh “State of the Ravens” annual press conference, which happens at 11 a.m.

I’ll also be LIVE BLOGGING from the Owings Mills complex during the actual event.

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