Billick: Browns fans off base on Modell

Ravens notebook

He says they will learn they were `scammed' on why owner left Cleveland

December 23, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

A day after leading a whitewashing of Cleveland's football team, Ravens coach Brian Billick had a few words for Browns fans on the matter of Art Modell.

The Ravens beat the Browns, 35-0, Sunday in what was owner Modell's final game against his old team. Modell was the owner of the old Cleveland Browns from 1961 to 1995 before moving the franchise to Baltimore in 1996.

Billick, apparently fed up with how Modell is perceived in Cleveland, gave an impromptu explanation of his version of the situation that led to Modell moving the franchise.

"At some point, the day will come, and I don't know when it will be, when the great fans in Cleveland will recognize and admit and see that they were scammed," Billick said.

"That the political powers that be forced Art Modell and the NFL out of Cleveland - and ought to be ashamed for doing it."

Modell never attended a Ravens game in Cleveland for fear of the effect his presence would have. Modell primarily moved the team because of stadium issues after a bitter dispute with local government officials.

The Browns' name and colors stayed in Cleveland, and the NFL returned to the city in 1999 with a new stadium.

"Art did it in a way that left them a legacy that is now restored and is past that con and scam, and has a beautiful stadium, a great set of fans in a legendary town with ownership in a position to build on that," Billick said.

Sunday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be Modell's final regular-season game as an NFL owner. Modell, 78, will sell his stake in the franchise to minority owner Steve Bisciotti after this season.

The Ravens will have a halftime ceremony honoring Modell on Sunday.

"Maybe I am in a little bit of denial, but I don't think of it in those terms," Billick said. "I know Art is going to be on those sidelines for years to come.

"It's got to mean a lot to him. At home, obviously we want to make it a special night. And it's going to be a special night, a special atmosphere."

Boulware optimistic

Linebacker Peter Boulware limped around the locker room with a wrap on his knee yesterday, but said he expects to play against the Steelers.

Boulware injured his knee less than a minute into the second quarter when he sacked Browns quarterback Tim Couch.

He did not play the rest of the half, but did return in the third quarter before sitting out much of the fourth in the blowout win.

He thinks he might have sprained the knee on the nearly frozen field.

"What aggravated it was probably landing on [the turf]," Boulware said.

"It's one of those deals that when I hurt it, I could have finished the game off, but I didn't want to go out there and risk anything."

Boller gains comfort

It may not have seemed like much, but quarterback Kyle Boller thinks those 11 snaps he took in mop-up duty against the Browns might help him later.

Boller said making calls under center in a live game will only benefit him if starter Anthony Wright is injured and he has to go in against the Steelers.

Boller was 5-4 as a starter before injuring his quadriceps muscle in a November loss to St. Louis.

He completed one pass for 10 yards against the Browns in his first action since the injury.

"It was good to be back in the huddle with my boys," Boller said. "My leg feels great. Anytime you get in there and get that game experience, it's irreplaceable."

Speaking of hits

Billick was glowing yesterday over Chad Williams' bone-jarring hit on Browns running back Jamel White late in the second quarter Sunday.

Williams drilled White, who had slipped out of the backfield, knocking loose the ball and forcing an incompletion. It was a highlight that will likely run a number of times on TV this week.

"You know they're going to be glued tonight to the `Jacked Up' segment [on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown]," Billick said. "If it's not on there, then I don't know if a family should be watching that segment because the 10 that beat it out, I don't know if I want to see that."

Sticking to schedule

Though Christmas falls in the middle of the week, the Ravens will only slightly alter their schedule.

The team will still practice Thursday but won't convene until noon, about four hours later than normal.

"This is the routine we have practiced, pretty much throughout, when this has come up this way," Billick said.

"We'll get what we need to get done on Thursday and be back to a normal routine."

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