Three years later the Ravens were in the AFC Championship Game. The next year they avenged that loss to the Patriots, then beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But Newsome showed this off-season that he wouldn’t rest on his laurels or sacrifice his personnel principles, allowing five-time All-Pro safety Ed Reed to leave as a free agent and trading receiver Anquan Boldin when he thought the price to keep him was too high. The latter move brought criticism that heightened when tight end Dennis Pitta was lost for the season in August and even more so in the opening week of 2013, when the Ravens fell 49-27 at Denver while Boldin starred in San Francisco’s 34-28 win over the Packers. If history is a guide, Newsome will remain unfazed. He’s been here before.
* * *
There is so much more that could be said about Newsome, the man who doesn’t want to talk about himself. He is “is a man of singleness and purpose,” as his good friend Marvin Lewis, the Bengals’ coach, says. “He’s a metronome,” says David Modell. “You can set your watch by him.” Newsome enters the facility at 7 a.m. and checks email. By 8:30 he’s on the treadmill. At noon he’s on the treadmill again, and then has a salad. He finishes the day on the treadmill around 6 p.m.
“I don’t know he’s as big as he is still,” Harbaugh says. “It’s not like he’s heavy or anything. But my gosh, how many calories does he burn on there? And then I see him eating salads? He says that’s where he does his best thinking.”
Newsome and his minions used to jog together at midday before his hip surgery. Marvin Lewis, who was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator from ’96 to ’01, never missed an opportunity to get on the interns about it: “I was teasing a new intern Joe [Hortiz, now director of college scouting]: ‘Joe, until you start jogging with Ozzie, you’re stuck, man, You’re not going anywhere.’ My nickname for DeCosta is Running Man. Always running with Ozzie.”
There’s also the Friday haircut at 2 p.m. every week, and how Newsome is always the person who delivers each fine levied by the team and the league—to maintain his position as bridge from the organization to the players.
Newsome’s loves (besides his wife, Gloria, and son Michael) are Alabama football, Ravens football and golf. No one is sure what the order is. But Newsome will not pick up a golf club until after the draft. Once he does, he’ll play just about every day, even in the oppressive summer heat of a Gulf Coast afternoon near his offseason home in Gulf Shores, Ala. “Ozzie has spent more money on lessons, equipment, greens fees than anybody that I know outside of PGA Tour pros,” Savage says.
Newsome will play with the local power brokers, but also with dozens of junior golfers in the area. He’s done that for years and still keeps in touch with many through text messages. Newsome gives them tickets to games, and even invited some to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Newsome is also, quietly, spiritual—he has a private bible session at least once a week and takes his gold cross out from under his shirt for every television interview he does.
The momentousness of the champion Ravens’ visit to the White House, where the first African-American NFL general manager shook hands with the first African-American president, was not lost on Newsome. “I’m so happy my mother is alive so that she could see that,” he told Modell.
The man who is defined in part by his ability to control his emotions lost that control at the cemetery when Art Modell was laid to rest. Newsome’s big sunglasses couldn’t hide the tears streaming down his face. He was so overcome that he had to leave the service. “I have to go,” Newsome told David Modell.
It’s been 17 years since Art Modell took a big risk by putting an inexperienced Newsome in charge of a barely functioning franchise after the emotional move out of Cleveland. Newsome led that franchise out of its morass to its current status as one of the most respected organizations in the NFL.
There’s a saying around the Ravens’ facility: “Ozzie transcends all.” Not only because he’s still there at 57, but for keeping his decision-making process—meaning that of the Ravens—wholly internal. Considering the success he’s he’s had, and the distance he’s traveled, from small-town Alabama to the pinnacle of pro football, maybe the Wizard of Oz does transcend all.