NFL season opener in Baltimore now in limbo as Ravens and Orioles can't compromise

Both teams scheduled to be at home night of Sept. 5

March 19, 2013|By Jeff Zrebiec | The Baltimore Sun

PHOENIX —

A failure to resolvea scheduling conflict with the Orioles has jeopardized the Ravens’ chances of hosting the NFL’s 2013regular-season opener, an honor bestowed on the Super Bowl champions for the last decade.

The NFL was expected to announce the Ravens’ opponent for the Sept. 5 game at this week’s league meetings. Instead, league and team officials said Monday that the game’s location is in doubt because the Orioles are scheduled to host the Chicago White Sox at 7:05 the same night.

The Ravens have made several proposals and asked the Orioles to move the game to the afternoon to set up a potential baseball/football doubleheader, but the Orioles and Major League Baseball have not agreed to that arrangement. Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium are adjacent to each other and share parking lots so playing the games at the same time is not an option.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, while hoping the situation can be resolved, gave strong indication Tuesday at the owners’ meetings that he would prefer to play on the road Thursday night to open the season rather than having a weekend home game. Playing on Thursday night would give the Ravens nine days off before having to play in Week 2.

“From a football standpoint, that’s a plus and you feel like you’ve earned that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something that is an opportunity to gain a little more rest time for your guys. You know, last year, we played four games in 18 days because we opened up on Monday night and then the fourth game was on Thursday.

“That was tough. I’m not sure that physically, we ever completely recovered from that throughout the course of the season. It is a benefit playing on Thursday."

But having the game at home on Thursday night would be great for Baltimore, Harbaugh said.

“The biggest thing is our fans. The team belongs to the fans, the team belongs to the community. You say whose team is this? It’s the community’s team,” he said.  “To have that home game after the Super Bowl has kind of become tradition. It’s something that we would cherish. It would mean a lot to our fans."

“I have called (MLB Commissioner) Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at the league’s annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. “We are trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles’ game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home on Thursday night. We think that is the right thing. We have agreed to move the game a little bit later in the evening to try to accommodate the baseball game.

“As a kid who grew up as an Orioles fan, to have the Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the kickoff game will be a great day. We hope that is the way it will happen.”

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team has offered to compensate their baseball neighbors for any lost revenue. Orioles owner Peter Angelos couldn’t be reached for comment and Greg Bader, the Orioles’ vice president for marketing and public relations, declined comment. However, a team source said the Orioles’ reticence to move the game to earlier in the day is a baseball issue, not a financial one. Orioles officials don’t think they could get the required approval from the White Sox, the league and the players’ association to change the game time.

“It doesn’t just involve the Orioles. There is another team,” said Katy Feeney, MLB’s senior vice president for club relations and scheduling. “I think mainly, from a baseball standpoint, to make that change is extremely difficult.”

The Orioles — and the White Sox for that matter — play the previous night in other cities, which would cause a tough turn-around for both teams. The Orioles, who made the playoffs last year for the first time in 15 years, are also expecting to play meaningful baseball in September and don’t want to put their team at a disadvantage in the heat of a possible pennant race.

“In fairness to Major League Baseball and the Angeloses, we’re trying to dump a pretty big problem on them and we’re asking them to make a lot of concessions that will benefit us and potentially harm them though it doesn’t necessarily harm them,” Bisciotti said. “The bottom line is if they wanted to do it, they would find a way to do it. From the Ravens and the NFL standpoint, we’ll do whatever we have to do in order to keep that tradition.”

With the NFL planning its schedule for the coming season, Goodell said the league needs a resolution on the matter soon. A failure to come to an agreement would most likely result in the Ravens starting the season on Sept. 5 on the road.

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