Ozzie Newsome is in both the college and pro football halls of fame. He was one of the greatest players ever at Alabama, one of the most storied programs in college football, and one of the best tight ends ever to play in the NFL.
He’s also the current general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, and as such, has been the recipient of a massive amount of criticism for the team’s disturbing handling of the Ray Rice mess.
Here’s what you need to know about Newsome and his role in the story.
1. Newsome Has Been the Ravens’ GM Since 2002
Newsome is in his second decade as general manager of the Ravens, having taken over the job in 2002 after serving in the team’s front office since its days in Cleveland, where Newsome was a Hall of Fame tight end. When he was promoted, he became the first black general manager in league history.
His tenure as GM has been extremely successful on the field: He hired John Harbaugh as the team’s coach in 2008 and drafted Ray Rice in the second round of the draft the same year.
The team went to the AFC Championship Game after the 2011 season and won the Super Bowl after the 2012 season when Baltimore beat a 49ers team coached by Harbaugh’s brother, Jim.
2. He Has Not Addressed the Media Since the Team Released Ray Rice
Newsome and Harbaugh met with Rice Monday afternoon to inform the running back he was being released following TMZ’s posting of a video showing Rice knocking his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, unconscious in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February.
But with the team facing an avalanche of criticism for its failure to have acted more swiftly in punishing Rice, neither Newsome nor owner Steve Bisciotti was present when Harbaugh addressed the media Monday night in Baltimore, saying he had “nothing but hope and good will” for Ray and Janay Rice.
3. The Ravens’ Handling of the Situation Has Been a Disaster
Ravens executives aren’t the only people being blamed for the disastrous handling of the incident, which included a stunningly lenient two-game suspension issued to Rice by commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell is facing the biggest public backlash of his career, and police and prosecutors in Atlantic City are coming under heavy criticism for letting Rice enter a pre-trial diversionary program that will allow him to avoid jail time if he stays out of trouble.
But even amid the other wrongdoing, the team’s handling of the situation has stood out as being particularly insensitive and out of touch.
The team orchestrated a press conference in May at which both Ray and Janay Rice apologized for their “roles” in the incident. And in a post that the team deleted amid the public outrage Monday, the team’s official Twitter account showed a mind-boggling lack of awareness when it tweeted that Janay said she “deeply regrets her role” in the incident that ended with her getting knocked out cold by her then-fiance.
When the league announced Rice’s suspension in May, Newsome issued a statement praising Goodell for taking “extra steps” when making disciplinary decisions. Here’s Newsome’s statement, which was published by NJ.com, among other outlets.
We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice. The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.
“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.
4. There’s Been Speculation About Newsome Retiring
The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston writes that the 58-year-old Newsome has been the subject of retirement rumors, especially in light of an incident last year in which Newsome was rushed to the hospital after he began sweating profusely following a game in Chicago.
But Newsome and those closest to him have denied that he’s considering calling it a career or leaving the NFL for a job at Alabama, his alma matter.
Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta told Preston:
Oz is a fierce competitor. It is what made him a great player. He enjoys working for the Ravens, loves putting a team together. I can’t see him going anywhere for a while, but when he does, it is going to be a sad, sad day for this organization.
5. As a Player, He Was One of the Best Tight Ends in History
Newsome’s career as an executive followed a legendary playing career in which Newsome set a host of records at Alabama and in the NFL.
He played for coaching icon Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he was a four-year starter and two-time All-SEC selection. His career average of 20.3 yards per reception was a Southeastern Conference record for more than 20 years, and he was named Alabama Player of the Decade for the 1970s.
The Browns took Newsome with the 23rd pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, and he’s been with the organization (which moved to Baltimore in 1995 and became the Ravens) ever since.
His career in the NFL was as impressive as his tenure at Alabama. He was a three-time Pro Bowl pick and was named All-Pro in 1984, when he set a single-game franchise record for receiving yards (191 yards) that stood until Josh Gordon broke it in 2013.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.