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By DAVID GINSBURG
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Perhaps Ozzie Newsome will be filled with emotion and just a bit of sadness in the weeks ahead as he prepares for his final NFL draft as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens.
For now, however, he won't allow his mind to be cluttered with thoughts other than landing the very best players the college game has to offer.
"It's all about the preparation and it's all about who is the player that we're going to take with that first-round pick - if we pick in the first round," Newsome said Wednesday.
Newsome - the only GM the Ravens have ever had - will step down after the upcoming season. He's been overseeing the draft since 1996, and now he's got one more chance to garner some talent for a team that has won two Super Bowls under his watch.
It's the end of an era, one that started when Art Modell brought his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore and put Newsome in charge of building a winner.
"I really haven't thought about that. I've been more just preparing for this draft," Newsome insisted. "What's going to occur a year from now is not in my thought process. It's just making this the best draft that we can this year. That's what's been my focus."
Newsome spoke while sitting at a table with his successor-in-waiting, assistant GM Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz.
That's one big reason why the Ravens haven't made the playoffs over three straight seasons, and why Newsome doesn't have time for nostalgia as he nears the April 26-28 draft armed with the 16th overall pick.
"When we were having success, we were getting all the credit," Newsome said. "When we're not having success, we take all the blame. It falls right on me."
The 62-year-old Newsome will stay on board after this season as an adviser, according to owner Steve Bisciotti.
DeCosta, 46, has been waiting to take over for years now. He spurned several offers from other teams along the way, and Bisciotti finally decided that it was time to make the switch.
DeCosta, like Newsome, has no time to think about the ramifications of the transition.
"That's still in the future. Honestly, the best thing I can do is take care of today and this process, this draft, for the future," DeCosta said. "We're really focused on this. We've got an opportunity here to really fix our team, which we need to do.
"This draft has a lot of significance, not because it's Ozzie's last draft, but because it's the draft that we have right now. We've got a great opportunity. We don't want to blow it."
As a player, Newsome was a Hall of Fame tight end with the Browns. Since 1996, he's gotten a thrill out of choosing from the best college talent in the world.
"From the very first draft, I had the same anticipation, and the same butterflies, that I did when I walked out the tunnel to play my first NFL game," Newsome said. "All the work is done, and then you have this moment where you have to pull the trigger, you have to perform."
Next year, it will be DeCosta's turn - with help from his mentor.
"Over the last 22 years, probably the most rewarding thing has been working with Ozzie, and I don't see that changing," DeCosta said. "We're a family. We want to win. I've got probably the best GM in the history of football - at least one of the top five - and I hope he always stays."
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Updated April 4, 2018