NFL's landing set for March New team's base to be in Owings Mills

February 16, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Kevin L. McQuaid and Brad Snyder contributed to this article.

The former Cleveland Browns have tentatively made mid-March their target date to begin moving from their training complex in Berea, Ohio, to their new but temporary headquarters in Owings Mills.

Bob Eller, the team's director of operations and information, has begun taking bids and meeting with officials from Baltimore moving and storage companies.

According to preliminary plans, the move would be in four phases, with some of the team's property being moved to offices in Owings Mills, Memorial Stadium, or held in storage until a permanent site is located.

Baltimore's football franchise wants to be running at full strength by early April, confirmed Ozzie Newsome, the team's director of pro personnel, and new coach Ted Marchibroda.

"I was told by our people the Owings Mills facility would be available by March 1, and we could move in stuff by mid-March and be at full production by April 1," said Marchibroda. "I'm looking forward to seeing the complex because I wasn't around when they moved in."

Said Newsome: "I know we've had some movers in. The first phase will probably involve getting the equipment down so we can get the players involved in their off-season programs here."

Preparing for the move is just one of the many details Baltimore's front office must tackle before the team plays its first game during the 1996 season at Memorial Stadium. The team still has to choose a nickname and colors, select training sites and a permanent office location, and put together a front office staff.

"Right now, my plate is full," said Baltimore owner Art Modell.

Maybe Modell's next criti cal decision will be on the status of player personnel director Michael Lombardi, who was notably absent from yesterday's press conference introducing Marchibroda.

In fact, as of late yesterday afternoon, Lombardi still had not been notified by team management in Baltimore that the club had a new coach. There is speculation that Lombardi, a close friend of fired coach Bill Belichick, will be dismissed after the college draft in April. Lombardi, 36, has two years left on his contract.

Baltimore owner Art Modell said there will be more front office changes soon. When asked to comment on Lombardi's status, Modell would only say: "It's under review."

Newsome, a former Browns All-Pro tight end, will play a more active role in the team's daily operations, according to Modell. Newsome will assist Lombardi with the draft. Both attended the recent college scouting combine in Indianapolis.

"I haven't spoken to Art since Jan. 4," Lombardi said from the Berea headquarters. "I was told back in January to work on the draft, and that's what I'll be doing until somebody tells me otherwise."

Today is the deadline for the city and surrounding counties to submit proposals for the team's new headquarters and training complex. Among the many proposals expected to be received is one from the city, which is considering offering the team the 21.5-acre site left vacant after last year's demolition of the 806-unit Lafayette Courts public housing complex.

The city also is considering submitting Memorial Stadium, part of a 33-acre tract it has been working to redevelop since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened, sources said.

Offers on sites in Baltimore, Harford, Carroll, Howard and Anne Arundel counties also are either being prepared or have already been submitted. Baltimore County has the early lead with 11 site proposals.

Team vice president David Modell said no deadlines have been set by the club or NFL Properties for a name or color scheme, but team officials continue to work on the project. Acquiring the Colts name and logo is still under consideration, even though the cost may be high.

Colts general manager Jimmy Irsay doesn't return phone calls from the Baltimore media, but told an Indianapolis Star reporter: "Art asked me about it last week and I said I'd listen, but I told him I really didn't have an interest. It's hard for me to imagine that ever happening. In this business, I've learned to never say never, but I can't imagine anyone coming up with any type of offer that would interest me.

"I don't see that happening. We have been approached about it in the past and we have thought about whether it would be beneficial for us to have a new name for the franchise," said Irsay, son of Colts owner Robert Irsay. "But I'm a traditionalist, and that horseshoe is a unique symbol. It means a lot to me and my family. We don't want to change."

Modell said: "The door is not closed yet. I will take one more stab at it."

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