Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who was quoted in yesterday's editions of The New York Times as favoring Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis for the two NFL expansion cities, said from his home last night that he hasn't prejudged the cities.
"I have no predisposition where we're going, and we're going to give Baltimore the same shot as anybody," he said.
In a wide-ranging interview in the Times, he was quoted on the topic of expansion as saying: "It's two teams by 1994 and, in my view, there has to be a commitment to realignment then, too. If I had to choose, I'd take Charlotte and St. Louis."
Modell said the reporter, Thomas George, told him that commissioner Paul Tagliabue favors adding one city that has not had an NFL franchise and one that has had one.
Modell then said that, as an illustration, he said it could be Charlotte and St. Louis as an example of a new and old city.
"I could have easily said Memphis and Baltimore," Modell said. "I have no intention to predetermine the cities in any way, shape or form. It's unfortunate it came out that way. It wasn't intended to be a recommendation."
George wasn't available for comment last night.
Modell is a member of the expansion committee that set a deadline last week of Sept. 16 for the cities to make applications and of Oct. 1 for the potential owners to apply.
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad, who has written to the league asking for an application, didn't seem concerned about Modell's comment.
"I'm convinced the process is going to be handled objectively and fairly," Belgrad said. "I've had some preferences from some owners in past meetings that they feel strongly inclined toward a Baltimore franchise, but I haven't accepted those comments as commitments. As I've said in the past, we have to earn their support on merits, and that's what we intend to do."
Belgrad also said the so-called conventional wisdom has been wrong in several recent NFL elections. For example, Tagliabue was a surprise choice as commissioner over Jim Finks, the general manager of the New Orleans Saints, and there have been several upsets in recent Super Bowl site-selection votes.
In the past, Modell had been considered sympathetic to Baltimore because he's one of the old-guard owners who remembers the glory days of the Colts.