“I went to Roger [Goodell] and said, ‘If you don’t let Dick in this meeting, I’m going to adopt him,’ ” the Ravens owner said. “’It’s ridiculous. If you don’t let him in, then I’m not coming in.’
“If only one is allowed in, it’s going to be Dick. He’s smarter than me, he knows the issues better than me. He understands it, and it’s his job to implement it.”
If Jones had his way, Cass might not have a plush office with the deck overlooking the Ravens’ practice fields.
“I can’t stress this enough,” said the Cowboys’ owner, “when we worked together, it was a very contentious time. Even though we had these lawsuits, the league and the other owners had so much respect for Dick.
“Later when we were interviewing people to be commissioner of the NFL, I wanted Dick to consider being a candidate,” Jones said. “I just knew he was very qualified. He would’ve done a great job.“
Paul Tagliabue and Goodell have turned to Cass for advice over the years. In fact, the commissioner’s office consulted often with Cass during the lockout that marred the 2011 offseason.
“He is not someone who has to always hear himself talk,” said Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel. “He doesn’t have to show you that he’s the smartest person in the room. He’s just someone who can listen, analyze, give good advice and come up with good solutions. A guy like that is invaluable.”
Bisciotti knew that right away. In December 1999, Bisciotti agreed to purchase 49 percent of the Ravens from Modell with an option to buy the balance five years later. A couple of years before Bisciotti was to assume full control of the team, he took Cass to lunch and asked him to serve as the Ravens’ president.
“I knew this was an opportunity that doesn’t usually come along,” Cass said. “I didn’t even think about it, to be honest with you.”
People in the organization say from Day 1, Bisciotti has articulated a vision, and Cass has carried it out.
“Whenever we have conversation,” Harbaugh said, “it’s usually me bringing him a problem and him immediately solving it.”
‘He understand relationships’
Cass watches practice each day, but he doesn’t pretend to design plays. He sits in the draft room, but he doesn’t scout players. Still, his fingerprints are everywhere and his responsibilities endless. When Terrell Owens balked at a trade to Baltimore. When Jamal Lewis was arrested. When Brian Billick was fired. And when Harbaugh was hired.
“Dick ties everything together,” Harbaugh said.
If there’s a common thread in Cass’s responsibilities, it’s people. He might spend a good deal of time chatting with Bisciotti, but he ultimately touches everyone in the organization. One day last week, he stayed late in the area to attend a wake for a family member of the team’s equipment manager.
“He understands relationships,” Bisciotti said.
The owner remembers a day in 2006, when he was having lunch in the cafeteria with Cass, Newsome and Kevin Byrne, the team’s senior vice president of public relations. Cass said he’d need a few days off work. A former law school classmate needed a new kidney, and Cass had volunteered one of his.
Cass only talked with the classmate once or twice a year, but says, “It didn’t seem like that big a deal to me.”
“Afterward, Ozzie, Kevin and I were just looking at each other,” Bisciotti said, “and I know the same thing was going on in every one of our heads: ‘I don’t know if I would do that.’ I would do that for my brother, my best friend, but an old classmate?”
In that same cafeteria last week, the Carroll County commissioners chatted with Cass. If they were displeased, it didn‘t show. They handed over a certificate proclaiming Sunday Baltimore Ravens day in the county and hoped to keep dialogue open between the county and the team.
“Is there something else we could do another time of year?” Howard asked.
“We are thinking about some type of event there this summer,” Cass said. “We don't know what it is yet. But we’ll figure something out.”