Jonathan Ogden 'most likely' to retire after season


December 09, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | The Baltimore Sun

The city might be losing a big piece of its football history, and it has nothing to do with the Colts this time.

Tonight's game against the defending Super Bowl champions could mark the last time a national television audience sees offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden playing for the Ravens.

And with just one more home game after tonight, fans might have to begin saying their goodbyes to a franchise cornerstone and the team's first-ever draft pick.

Ogden, 33, told The Sun that he is leaning toward retiring at the end of the season.

"I'm most likely not going to be back," Ogden said. "But I said that last year, too. So, I don't know. Honestly, no decision is set in stone."

This has been the most frustrating season for Ogden, one of the best offensive linemen of this generation and one of the most outwardly emotional players during games.

It digs at Ogden that he can't play at his usual elite level because of a toe injury. It rankles him even more that he hasn't won a game this season - the Ravens have lost all seven games in which he has played.

Ogden indicated he won't make a final decision on retirement for at least a month after the season ends.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Ogden with the fourth overall pick in 1996, said he can't gauge whether the 12-year veteran will return, and he won't pressure Ogden into making up his mind.

"Having gone through it myself, I think a player needs space to be able to make that decision," said Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end who retired after 13 seasons. "He cannot make it immediately after the season."

The two biggest factors in Ogden's decision are his desire to play and the pain in his toe.

Ogden has yet to fully recover from hyperextending the big toe on his left foot last December. After missing all of training camp and five of the first six games, the 10-time Pro Bowl lineman has struggled to generate power because he can't push off on the foot.

But Ogden continues to battle through the injury. One week, he looks like an average offensive tackle, getting beaten on the edge by the San Diego Chargers' Shawne Merriman. The next, he is back to his typical dominating ways, sealing off the left side against the New England Patriots to spring several big runs for Willis McGahee.

There is a possibility Ogden could be fully healed with six months of rest. But there are no guarantees, he said.

"I'm not 100 percent. I won't pretend to be," Ogden said. "I'm doing OK out there. I don't like playing just OK. But that's what I got right now. If this doesn't get better, I definitely wouldn't come back."

Even if Ogden is physically ready to play, he has to be mentally ready, too.

More than any other player on the team, Ogden shows his frustration during games, whether it's throwing his hands in the air or throwing his helmet on the sideline. After losses, it's difficult for Ogden to talk at times.

"You're going out there with a bad foot in Year 12 and you haven't won - it kind of starts to wear on you a bit," Ogden said. "But I'm going to keep going out there and banging my head against the wall."

That passion has to be there for Ogden to return.

"You've got to have the desire," said Ogden, who is signed through 2010. "I invest so much mentally and emotionally in a game. If I don't have that, it really would make it impossible to come back."

If Ogden were to retire, the Ravens have alternatives in place. With Marshal Yanda appearing set at right tackle, the Ravens can go with Adam Terry or Jared Gaither (Maryland) on the left side.

Some in the Ravens organization think Ogden will retire. Others believe he's coming back because he is expected to make $7.5 million next season (although his contract could be restructured).

"I have not and will not talk to J.O. about [his decision] until he's willing and ready to talk to me," Newsome said. "Right now, I think all J.O. is concerned about is the Indianapolis Colts. I think he knows how to stay in the moment like that."

Ravens center Mike Flynn, Ogden's teammate for 10 seasons, said there's no doubt that Ogden could play for a couple more years if he wanted to do so.

"But it's not about that. As you get older, it's how your body feels and the fire in the belly," Flynn said. "And those are questions that only he can answer."

If Ogden could script it, he would want to finish his career with another Pro Bowl season and another Super Bowl ring.

But Ogden said he has to be realistic.

"Really, who does that happen for?" Ogden said. "Yeah, you want to go out on top, but you just can't come back for that. That's not enough."

He added: "I've been through a lot in 12 years. I've done about everything you can do really. So, we'll just see how it feels after the season."

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