Modell won't attend Lerner's funeral

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The man still despised by some Cleveland fans for moving the old Browns to Baltimore said Thursday that he was saddened by the death of Al Lerner, who brought the team back.

Speaking for himself and his wife, Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell said he and Pat were "saddened by Al's passing. Our deepest sympathies go to his wife, Norma, son Randy, daughter Nancy and Al's grandchildren."

Modell, who has avoided public appearances in Cleveland since moving the Browns to Baltimore in 1995 and renaming them the Ravens, won't attend Lerner's funeral Friday in Cleveland, said Ravens spokeswoman Marisol McMacken Renner, who did not give a reason.

Lerner, 69, died Wednesday night at the Cleveland Clinic surrounded by family and friends, MBNA Senior Vice Chairman David Spartin told the News Journal in Wilmington, Del., where the MBNA credit-card company is based.

Lerner had been treated at the clinic in May 2001 for a brain tumor. He turned up at Browns training camp two days later and said "there's absolutely nothing wrong."

Lerner used his wealth from banking, real estate and credit-card giant MBNA Corp. to revive the Browns in 1998.

Funeral services will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at The Temple-Tifereth Israel at East 105th Street in University Circle.

The Ravens organization will be represented at the funeral by Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, who played with the old Browns and now is Baltimore's senior vice president of football operations.

"Al Lerner was a gracious man who went out of his way to keep me part of the Browns family. I greatly appreciated that," Newsome said.

The first coach hired and fired by Lerner, Chris Palmer, now offensive coordinator of the expansion Houston Texans, said he respects Lerner.

"I have a great deal of respect for Al Lerner. I thought he was a man's man," Palmer said. "He's a guy you could trust. A devoted husband and father. I hold him in the highest regard."

Cleveland's mayor said Lerner had created a legacy for the city.

"Al invested in the Browns because he wanted the team to succeed. It was his gift to the community," Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell said.

"We're going to have him with us, no matter where we go or what we do," said Carmen Policy, who Lerner named team president and a 10-percent partner. "Just like his family, Al has taken care of the Browns. He took care of this team like it was his family."

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, a former Ohio governor and Cleveland mayor, said the city is a better place because of Lerner.

"Al was interested for a long time in professional football and understood its importance to a region's competitiveness," Voinovich said. "I don't know if we would have the Browns today without his determination."

Browns fans watching the World Series late Wednesday night over beers at Becky's downtown sports bar wondered how his death will affect the team.

When he heard the news, Demond Moss just stared down at the bar for a few moments speechless. Moss, 29, of Cleveland, described himself as a lifelong Browns fan.

"It's sad for the whole organization, I'm sure," Moss finally said. "But I think it might make the team stronger, if they come back more together."

Dan Hill, 23, of Chardon, said he wants to know who will take over the Browns.

"Who owns the team now? It will be interesting to see who will succeed him," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)