Mike Preston: Farewell to longtime Ravens president Dick Cass, who modernized the franchise in Baltimore

Few have had as much influence on the Ravens as owners Art Model and Steve Bisciotti, but President Dick Cass is certainly close.

CAS, 76, announced retirement In early February after 18 years with the organization. On Thursday, he will appear alongside his successor, Shashi Brown, when the former Cleveland Browns and Washington Wizards executive is officially introduced.

Former Ravens general manager Ozzy Newsom, who never liked to give interviews and currently serves as the team’s executive vice president, can’t say farewell to Cass because of how his longtime co-worker reshaped the organization. .

I always called Cass “The Quiet Storm”.

His impact on the organization went unnoticed, said Newsom, the team’s general manager from 2002 to 2018. In this league, when it comes to recognition, it always goes to the owner, head coach and quarterback.

“When he came in 2004, Brian [Billick] was still the head coach. Obviously, there were always some issues with the stadium that had to be dealt with, but we were basically a mom-and-pop organization. He had to navigate us through the league while the team was expanding without compromising on the foundation we already had. ,

The term “mom-and-pop” was appropriate. The Ravens were a family-owned business, but their financial troubles were well documented, which is one reason they moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.

This is also one of the main reasons why NFL owners approved the purchase of 49% of Bisciotti’s team in 2000 and the remaining 51% in 2004.

Bisciotti’s first hire was Cass, and Newsom remembers meeting him for the first time while flying back from the owners’ meeting after the sale was approved.

“He was so prepared and had great knowledge of the National Football League,” Newsom said. “And it was so easy to talk to him. [Former NFL running back] Calvin Hill and I are very close, and he gave me a scouting report on Dick, and it was all great.

Cass turned the Ravens into one of the best outfits not only in the NFL, but in all professional sports.

He used his previous experience working with the Charlotte Hornets of Dallas, Washington and the NBA to modernize the Ravens, which had 98 full-time employees under the Models. This number has now gone up to 275.

According to Newsom, Cass has been involved in every part of the franchise, from staff and player personnel to corporate sales, communications and business ventures, and even draft meetings and player selection.

Graduating from Princeton in 1968 and later Yale Law School in 1971, Cass has guided the Ravens through two collective bargaining agreements between the league and the players’ union.

Yes, he has such a mind.

“That becomes our research,” Newsom said. “When we had questions, we went to Dick and asked him how we should handle this? Being the lawyer, he could have explained it in a very simple way, and then we would go and put it into practice.

“Dick was always very supportive, not only of mine, but [general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and head coaches John Harbaugh and Brian. If we needed anything after discussing with him, he would find a way to get it done.”

In 2006, then-league commissioner Paul Tagliabue pointed to CAS’s major input into the collective bargaining agreement’s revenue-sharing plan. There was some speculation that Cass would replace Tagliabue as commissioner, but this did not fit his style.

Cass is the background type guy. He is friendly but talks about himself very rarely, probably because he is such a great listener.

He also comes from a military family, which according to Newsom helped.

“I think he moved on a lot, and when you live in different places, you learn how to deal with different types of people, learn to make friends, learn to adjust,” Newsom said. “I think it allows that person to be comfortable in their own skin, but also feel comfortable around other people because they are comfortable with who they are.”

But don’t assume that Cass was a pushover. Remember the nickname, “Quiet Storm”?

“Oh yeah, he might be mad and some fancy words come out of his mouth. I’ve seen him go crazy,” Newsom said with a laugh. “But he has a good sense of humour.”

Cass is a kind person. With some organizational leaders, you may get the impression that they participate in charitable work because they need it, or want the good press that comes with it.

Cass didn’t care what the effort was, whether it was supporting various charities or distributing money for social justice reform in Baltimore.

There are stories of how he and the Ravens cost a media member who died or how Cass donated a kidney to a close friend in 2006. He brought as much energy to work for the past 18 years as he does in his daily life. morning walk.

The Ravens are going to miss Cass.

“Dick has always done a great job of getting as much information as possible before talking to someone because he wants to be comfortable in that conversation,” Newsom said.

“Steve always said he wanted us to be good partners, but Dick was a great partner. We talked about his departure before, but he always said he wanted to make sure that when we started We were in a better position since then, and he wanted it to be right.”

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