The Byrne Identity: What It Means to "Trust The Board"

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7:40 P.M.

If you were just listening to WBAL Radio, you heard Ozzie Newsome describe how the draft has grown through the years. Newsome began his Hall of Fame career as a first-round draft choice of the Browns in 1978.

"That was before ESPN and cell phones," Newsome said. "Me and my family called a Tuscaloosa [Alabama] radio station to find out where they were in the draft.  When I found out that the Browns had passed me on the 12th pick to take Clay Matthews, I got worried because they had showed the most interest.

"Our phone would ring, I'd answer it, and some friend or relative would ask if I had been drafted yet. I'd quickly say 'no' and get off the phone as fast as I could. I didn't want to miss the call from the team. Finally, Cleveland called, and the rest is history," Newsome explained.

Ozzie was selected with the 24th pick in the first round. Matthews, a linebacker from USC and the father of Clay Matthews III, the rookie LB who made the Pro Bowl as a Green Bay Packer, played 19 NFL seasons and gets some Hall of Fame consideration every year. Not quite Ogden and Lewis for the 1996 Ravens' draft, but pretty good for the 1978 Browns.

ART MODELL

And speaking of Ravens and Browns, Art Modell is here this evening. He had dinner with Steve Bisciotti, Coach Harbaugh and Dick Cass. Former team president, David Modell, is also here. Classy by Steve and Ozzie to invite them.

Oh, and Ozzie did get on the treadmill one more time before he appeared on WBAL Radio. Oz is now settled in the draft room waiting to see what will unfold in the next hours.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY "TRUST THE BOARD"

It's 4 p.m. on the first day of the 2010 draft.

Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta, Joe Hortiz and Dick Cass just started the final draft strategy meeting before everything starts tonight at 7:30.

I just finished a conversation with Coach Harbaugh about how much he "trusts our (draft) board." The head coach explained how impressed he is with all the work that went into making our draft board. "I think what separates our board from others is the honesty with it." Huh?

The head coach explained: "Ozzie commands honest opinions from all the scouts and coaches. He wants constant dialogue. He wants all of us to have a strong opinion on a player, and to do that, you have to study that player. That honest, hard work then gives you the right to present your honest opinion. And, sometimes, argue your opinion against someone else in the building. It's a constant churning of information and exchange.

"In the end," Harbaugh continued, "so much research, hard work, long hours and conversation, sometimes with passionate discussion, have gone into our board. That's why we trust our board. That's what Ozzie means when he says 'I trust our board.' That's why we all trust it. It's honest, and the foundation that built it is strong."

By the way, the player with the highest grade on our board is Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

DIFFERENT DAY, SAME ROUTINE

With the draft starting at 7:30 tonight, the NFL goes primetime. That didn't stop Newsome, DeCosta and Hortiz from getting here at their regular early times this morning.

Ozzie has already done two workouts on the treadmill, one when he first arrived this morn and another at noon. Oz plans one more walk before the start of the draft. "Working on the treadmill relaxes me and clears my mind. I sort a lot of things out while my legs keep moving," Newsome, a Hall of Fame athlete, explained.

DeCosta kept his first day of the draft routine. He ran three miles with Pat Moriarty, our vice president of football administration in the morning. Eric then played racquetball with Nick Fusee, one of our IT geniuses. (It's a little break from Eric's tradition. He usually plays me the morning of the first day of the draft, but I'm recovering from shoulder surgery.)

Hortiz has been on the phone with scouts from around the league trying to dig up some insight that will help with our strategy. Joe said "I'm thinking about working out. Maybe I'll do it after the meeting with Steve."

THE HOPE

I've seen it since the first draft in Ravens history – a player we ranked higher, dropping to us in the first round. Call it luck or genius, but it has happened.

In the Ravens' first-ever draft in 1996, new VP of personnel Ozzie Newsome selected Jonathan Ogden, who was the highest-rated player on our board, with the 4th pick in that draft.

Ogden will soon be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oz's second pick that season – the 26th selection in the first round – was, of course, another Hall of Famer, Ray Lewis.

I've witnessed the 15th player on our board, Todd Heap, fall to 31 when we picked him. Last year, Michael Oher, who was in our top 10, was selected at 23.

That old saying: "Good things happen to those who wait." That's what I'm hoping for tonight.

Kevin

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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