Court reopens suit vs. Modell Season-ticket holders in Cleveland to get say, delay Ravens' 'wrap-up'

July 11, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

The new Cleveland Browns may be on the field before all the lawsuits involving the old Cleveland Browns are resolved.

Thirty-three months after the Browns announced they were moving to Baltimore where they eventually became the Ravens and just 13 months before the expansion Browns will play their first exhibition game, an appellate court in Ohio has given the green light for season-ticket holders of the old Browns to pursue a lawsuit against owner Art Modell.

A class action lawsuit that was thrown out of court last year has been reinstated by the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland.

The appeals court found that Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Callahan incorrectly dismissed the lawsuit in May 1997.

Jim Bailey, Ravens executive vice president, said the team will appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The season-ticket owners want damages because they contend the team had decided to move when it collected season-ticket money in 1995.

The team signed a deal to play in Baltimore starting in 1996 in October 1995. The deal wasn't approved by the NFL until February 1996.

"Several of these suits were filed at the time and we've gotten them all off the board except this one," Bailey said. "We'll go through the legal process. It's just part of the wrap-up we've got going."

Joshua Cohen, a lawyer for the former season-ticket holders, said it was a victory although it's still uncertain whether the case will actually go to trial if the Ohio Supreme Court backs up the appellate court's decision.

The city of Cleveland dropped its lawsuit against the old Browns when the league agreed to give the the city an expansion team that will start playing in 1999 in a new stadium built on the site of the old Memorial Stadium. As part of the deal, Modell agreed to leave the Browns' nickname and colors in Cleveland.

The league already has hired personnel to staff the team on an interim basis and get it up and running until an owner is selected. The new team is scheduled to play its first game in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, next summer.

Tight end Quayle signs

Ravens rookie tight end Cam Quayle agreed to a two-year, $352,000 contract. He'll get a $28,000 signing bonus and base salaries of $144,000 and $180,000. The Ravens still have five draft picks to sign, including No. 1 selection Duane Starks, a cornerback from the University of Miami.

The 6-foot-6, 254-pound tight end was the last player chosen in the 1998 draft, earning the title of Mr. Irrelevant. Quayle isn't expected to play much this season, but his size makes him a candidate for the development squad.

Quayle was an All-Big Sky Conference first-team selection last year, catching 53 passes for 479 yards for Weber State. Quayle and No. 2 pick Patrick Johnson, a receiver out of Oregon, are the only two rookies to have signed with the club.

The Ravens have sent proposals to all of their rookies, but team officials do not expect any other deals to be finalized this weekend.

The Ravens sent Starks a proposal Tuesday night and the team has had constant dialogue with Starks' agent Drew Rosenhaus. Starks, a cornerback from the University of Miami, was the 10th ** selection overall. The ninth, 11th and 12 picks all have signed with their respective teams.

"We're moving along," said Rosenhaus. "We're not there yet, but we're extremely optimistic something can be reached before training camp opens."

The Ravens rookies will report to Western Maryland College on July 20. "We've made some very reasonable offers, well within market range and within our rookie salary pool," said Pat Moriarty, the team's chief financial officer. "I think we're in pretty good shape."

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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