Former owners of Super Bowl teams up for Hall

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Former owners of Super Bowl teams up for Hall

NEW ORLEANS (AP) An oddity for this Super Bowl has both teams' former owners as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The late Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns and then moved them to Baltimore to become the Ravens, and Ed DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers could enter the hall on Saturday. They are among 15 modern-day finalists, of which as many as five can be elected.

Modell bought the Browns in 1961 and took them to Baltimore in 1996. He was president of the NFL under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle from 1967-69 and played an instrumental role in negotiating television contracts for the league. Modell contributed to the creation of Monday night football, too.

``That is always one of those situations that you really try to stay out of, because you don't know how they vote,'' Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis said. ``You can only tell them about the man who I knew myself: a true legend in his own way, a real visionary who changed thousands and thousands of lives. For the impact he's had on this business and what he's done for so many in this business, for me - I am a little biased - I would say, `Why wouldn't he be in the Hall of Fame?'''

DeBartolo purchased the 49ers in 1977. Soon, they were winning championships: five Super Bowls in as many tries.

During DeBartolo's tenure, the team made 16 playoff appearances, won 13 division titles and played in 10 conference championship games.

But he also was suspended the 1999 season by the NFL after being found guilty of failing to report a bribe by a government official, a felony. He divested ownership of the 49ers to family members.

``I'm hoping Eddie gets into the hall because any time you can accomplish winning five Super Bowls and what he brought to the game of football, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,'' said former 49ers great Jerry Rice, the most accomplished receiver in NFL history and a Canton enshrinee. ``I think this society's supposed to be about forgiveness and stuff like that. It's time for Eddie DeBartolo to get into the hall.''

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BATCH HONORED BY UNION: Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch was presented with a $100,000 donation for his charity on Thursday as the winner of the NFL Players Association's Byron ``Whizzer'' White Award.

The annual honor recognizes exemplary community service.

Batch's foundation helps children in the Pittsburgh area through sports and education.

Past recipients of the union's award include Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Franco Harris and Gale Sayers.

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REMEMBERING WALSH: Jim Harbaugh remembers it well, that initial phone message from late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh asking if he would leave San Diego and come coach at Stanford to turn around a spiraling program.

``He did call me and left a message on my phone to see if I'd be interested in the Stanford coaching job,'' Harbaugh said. ``I was intending to leave that message on my phone for the rest of my life, but I lost that phone or I dropped it in the toilet or something. I can't remember which it was - lost it or dropped it in the can. I don't have that message anymore, but it truly was one of the most memorable things.''

Now Harbaugh is following in Walsh's steps coaching the San Francisco 49ers, and in the Super Bowl to boot.

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ADRIAN'S AID: Adrian Peterson believes his quick recovery from major knee surgery is an inspiration not only to his teammates and other football players, but to all athletes. And, especially, to all kids.

Peterson always has prided himself on being in top shape, and credits his conditioning with enabling him to coming back less than nine months after the surgery, then nearly setting the NFL rushing record, gaining 2,097 yards in Minnesota's wild-card playoff season.

He wants to make sure the youth of America are in tune with staying fit.

``Me being an athlete, I know how important it is to be active and keep your body in shape, and it is hard to get a kid outside to do that,'' said Peterson, who was in New Orleans to promote Kinect for Xbox 360's affiliation with NFL Play 60 to help kids have fun while achieving healthy, active lifestyles. The program also is designed to fight childhood obesity.

``Get off the couch and get active.''

That's exactly what Peterson said he did during his rehab. He chose the Xbox golf game.

``I played the golf game and that got my body burning,'' he said. ``They have the more active games like the track and the NFL, but the golf, it's different. It's cool and I think kids will like it.''

Peterson also is eager to promote nutrition and a healthy diet. He had a sweet tooth as a child and said he was fortunate that he could simply go outdoors and play sports to work off the calories.

``Kids today definitely get a lot of fast foods in their body and that's not good for you,'' he said. ``And now that I am older, I understand. I want young people to understand they need to eat healthy and be active. They don't have to play football, but they need to do something.''

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MUM'S THE WORD: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says linebacker Ray Lewis decided to retire after this season several weeks before sharing the news with his team and the rest of the world.

Lewis was working to return from a torn right triceps when coach John Harbaugh told the owner that Lewis wanted to talk to him.

``He just said, `I talked to John and I talked to (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and I'm done after this,''' Bisciotti recalled Thursday. ``We spoke for a few minutes. I just said, `Mum's the word until you decide to announce it or tell the team.' That lasted, I think, a month.''

The formal announcement from Lewis came on Jan. 2. He has resolved to make the Super Bowl his final game.

Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

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Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

It was no surprise the Ravens did not pick up the fifth-year option on safety Matt Elam by Monday’s deadline. The bigger question is whether Elam even makes the team next season.

The 32nd pick in the 2013 draft, Elam has been one of the biggest first-round busts in team history. Some of the standout players who went after Elam in that draft include Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (44th), Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (48th), and Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (52nd).

Elam missed all of last season with a torn biceps, after underperforming in 2013 and 2014. Elam was a big hitter in college at Florida, but has struggled with missed tackles as a Raven, and has been even worse in pass coverage. With the Ravens acquiring safety Eric Weddle in free agency, and Lardarius Webb switching from cornerback to safety, Elam is expected to be a backup at best. He will compete with Terrence Brooks, Kendrick Lewis, and others for a backup role.

Elam is scheduled to make $1.327 million next season, before becoming a free agent in 2017.  However, Elam’s first priority is to secure his place with the Ravens in 2016.  

AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

The Ravens can expect to see Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison as an opponent again in 2016. Harrison confirmed on his Instagram account Monday that he would return for another season.

Harrison will turn 38 years old Wednesday (May 4), but he was still effective in 2015 with five sacks and 40 tackles playing in the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. With his announcement that he was returning, Harrison wrote “I’m feeling just like a fine wine. Getting better with age.”

Despite Harrison’s age, the Steelers believe they got younger and better on defense through the draft. Five of the Steelers’ seven picks were on defense – cornerback Artie Burns (first round), safety Sean Davis (second), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round), outside linebacker Travis Feeney (sixth round), and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich (seventh round).  

Clearly, there will be plenty of new names in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, with both teams looking to get younger and faster. However, Harrison plans to be part of the mix for at least another season. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 9, and visit the Steelers on Christmas afternoon.

MORE RAVENS: BISCIOTTI GETS HIS WISH WITH BOLSTERED PASS RUSH

Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

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Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

At the team's "State of the Ravens" end-of-season news conference, owner Steve Bisciotti made no bones about where he thought the Ravens needed to improve in 2016: rushing the passer.

So although Bisciotti didn't speak to the media after the draft, he had to be pleased with the results.

With two of their first three picks, the Ravens selected players who figure to pressure the quarterback -- Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa and Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi.

"They both have pass rush ability," coach John Harbaugh said. "They both get sacks, they are both high-motor players and high-energy pass rushers. These two guys are going to run to the ball. These two guys are going to run to the ball 100 miles an hour every single play. That’s really important on defense.”

The next day, the Ravens added Grand Valley State defensive end Matt Judon -- who had 20 sacks last year -- in the fifth round. Just for good measure, they also reportedly agreed to sign undrafted rookie linebacker Victor Ochi of Stony Brook, who led the Football Championship Subdivision with 13 sacks.

Harbaugh said after the draft that "I don't think it was a secret" that Bisciotti wanted the Ravens to upgrade the pass rush, "and we were able to fill (that need). I’m really fired up about that. I’m really excited about these guys getting to the quarterback.”

Bisciotti said in January that losing Terrell Suggs to a season-ending injury in Week 1 had a "domino effect" that greatly disrupted the defense. Elvis Dumervil was forced into more of a three-down role, and Courtney Upshaw never came close to replacing Suggs' sack numbers. Dumervil dropped from 17 sacks to six, and overall the Ravens dropped from 49 sacks in 2014 to 37 last season.

When the pass rush failed to pressure the quarterback, coverage linebackers or defensive backs were frequently exposed.

"I think I have a true appreciation of what pressure means, and so that’s what I think we need to do," Bisciotti had said in January. "I think we need to focus on our free agency and our draft, and I think we have to have multiple pass rushers in order to let everybody else be effective.”

Suggs turns 34 in October and is coming off his second major Achilles injury. Dumervil is 32. So the need to develop good young pass rushers is obvious. The Ravens hope they took a big step in that direction over the weekend.

MORE RAVENS: EVALUATING ALL FIVE 4TH-ROUND SELECTIONS