NFL team could get name as early as Wednesday Baltimore execs to mull contenders over weekend

March 15, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

PALM BEACH, Fla. - It's decision time in the Baltimore NFL nickname game.

The top executives of the new Baltimore NFL team finished their nickname research yesterday when they heard a presentation from NFL Properties at the league meetings.

They formally rejected Colts and Bombers as possible nicknames and will spend the weekend mulling over the leading contenders before making a decision, possibly as early as next Wednesday.

Kevin Byrne, a team spokesman, said it's likely the name will come from a group of finalists that includes a horse (Mustangs), bird (Ravens), airplane (Marauders) and two trains (Railers and Americans).

The name Americans may not be easily identified with trains, but it was the name of a train run.

Byrne said Bulldogs also is being considered. He said there are a few other possibilities, but he declined to identify them.

"We want to keep some mystery in this," he said.

The team's top executives owner Art Modell and his son, David, executive vice president/legal affairs Jim Bailey, Byrne, coach Ted Marchibroda, director of football operations Ozzie Newsome and business director Patrick Moriarty will gather next in Baltimore on Tuesday night for the Ed Block Courage Award dinner.

They will meet again Wednesday and could make the decision at that time, although Byrne said there appears to be no consensus front-runner and it's possible a decision could be delayed.

"We probably had six different favorites, but it wasn't to the point to where somebody said, 'This has to be it,' " Byrne said.

"Somebody might say, 'I like this aspect of it.' And then Art might say, 'I really like this one.' But Art wasn't saying, 'This is the one I want.' And David [who's been heading up the selection process] was giving us all a chance to express our points of view. Now, it's a matter of digesting a little bit and coming back together.

"Basically, Art said, 'Why don't we all think about it for a couple of days and talk to each other on the phone and then we can get together and talk about it again.' "

In a recent phone poll of 1,000 Baltimore residents, Mustangs and Ravens were rated higher than Marauders, Railers and Americans, Byrne said. But that could be because Mustangs and Ravens were mentioned frequently during the 1993 expansion race.

At that time, NFL Properties first suggested Rhinos, but withdrew it because of the negative reaction it got in Baltimore.

The league then settled on Bombers as the expansion name, but that's been ruled out because of the recent bombings in Oklahoma City, Israel and England.

Rhinos got early consideration but didn't make the final cut.

The nickname Colts tested well in the poll, although it rated better among older fans who remember the glory days of the Colts than among younger fans.

But Jimmy Irsay, Colts general manager and son of owner Bob Irsay, effectively ended any consideration of that name by setting a starting price for negotiations in the tens of millions of dollars.

Art Modell met briefly with Colts general counsel Mike Chernoff this week, but they didn't do any negotiating because Irsay had said that for "$25 to $50 million, I'd listen."

In the phone poll, Baltimore residents were asked not only to pick their favorite names, but also to say why they think the names would fit Baltimore's image.

"The people of Baltimore consider themselves hard-working, blue-collar types," Byrne said. "Cal Ripken is the epitome of what Baltimore is all about.

"We'd like to pick a name the fans can get excited about, that they can identify with, that they can feel is part of their community."

NOTE: Baltimore's first nationally televised game will be an exhibition contest Aug. 10 against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. The game, to be shown on NBC, is one of 15 in the preseason that will be used to experiment with a new version of instant replay.

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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