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The Byrne Identity: Details Behind Bears Trade Fiasco


Okay, I'll admit it. My heart rate went up a few notches in the draft room last night.

But, as John Harbaugh told reporters: "You have to give it to Ozzie (Newsome). He remained calm and we got the player we wanted."

No doubt Oz was hearing a lot of voices in the room as our 10-minute allotment at the 26th spot in the first round counted down. Plus, the Ravens' general manager was literally on two phone calls: the NFL (Joel Bussert, the league's player personnel expert) on his left ear and the Chicago Bears on his right.

Here's how the drafting of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith went down:

Prior to our pick at 26, a team called Ozzie and offered a trade for the spot. Newsome told them he would get back to them.

Oz then announced to those in the room: "We have 10 minutes until it's our turn. We'll see if we get any other calls. If we don't like what we hear, we're taking Jimmy. Chad (Alexander), tell them to get a card ready with Jimmy Smith's name." Alexander, our assistant director of pro personnel, was on a headset phone with Ian Cunningham, a personnel assistant, who was in New York at the Ravens' draft table.

With just over five minutes left during our time, another team called and made an offer for our spot. "That's not enough," Newsome told the caller.

With just over four minutes remaining, the Bears called and made an offer. Oz told them "not good enough, we're ready to pick."  Chicago called back within a minute and agreed to Ozzie's suggestion. Almost instantly, Oz had Bussert on the line. "Joel, we just made a trade with the Bears. They're calling you now," Newsome said.

A minute later – now around the two- minute mark - Ozzie said: "Joel, I've got them on the other phone. They've agreed."

To the Bears: "Joel said you guys haven't confirmed the trade."

"Joel, they said they called. I don't know (who they called)."

To the Bears: "Joel says you guys haven't called. What's going on?"

"Joel, are you sure your phones are good. They said they called. Let's go."

Someone in the draft room called out: "Oz, Kansas City is ready to pick."

"They won't take Smith," Joe Hortiz, our director of college scouting, said loudly.

Alexander alerted the room: "Kansas City is walking the pick to the table."

Newsome, who was still trying to get the offered draft pick from Chicago, said to the Bears: "What's going on? Joel said you haven't called and there's no problem with the phones. … We're done. Chad, turn in the card."


Hard to single out the happiest guy in the room at the time. Certainly, John Harbaugh was beaming. Secondary Coach Teryl Austin, who had come into the room 20 minutes earlier for what I would call "lobbying by his presence," was thrilled. But, I think that was the biggest smile I've ever seen on Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano's face. Then I heard Chuck tell Jimmy over the phone:  "Get ready to play. We'll put you on the other team's best. You ready for that? I know you are. You're part of the Ravens' defense now."

My immediate reaction was to get to Oz and tell him that some media were going to be saying the Ravens messed up by letting the clock expire.

"Oz, the Bears messed up. We shouldn't take the hit for this," I told the Wizard.

"I'm not going to throw the Bears under the bus," Newsome said.

"Well, how about at least explaining that we had a deal with another team and that they did not follow through with a confirmation at the last second?"

Newsome: "Okay, I'll do that. But, Kevin, we got the kid we wanted and he can really play."

In the end, the Bears soon admitted at a press conference that they "had dropped the ball on a trade with Baltimore."

Nice of them, I guess. But, we'd rather have the draft pick. While it worked out, it could have been a bad situation for us, the NFL and the Bears.


***Kevin Byrne***, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.

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