Mason: I Am Retiring

Ravens Receiver Says He Can't Get 'Enthused,' Leaves Team Stunned

July 14, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,

Wide receiver Derrick Mason abruptly announced his retirement Monday, a decision that surprised and confused the Ravens.

Mason, 35, the Ravens' No. 1 receiver, was entering the final year of his five-year, $20 million contract and was seeking an extension. The Ravens publicly said they were agreeable to a new contract, but no deal was imminent.

Mason's retirement would leave a huge void at wide receiver and mark a drastic setback for a team that reached the AFC championship game. But it's still unclear whether Mason intends to follow through with his retirement.

"This is a decision that I've made," Mason told ESPN News. "If I do change my mind, it won't be because of the Ravens. It'll be because of some other things - my family and talking with other people. I still got to talk with some coaches over there. As far as financially, I don't think they can do anything to sway me."

The news caught the Ravens off guard, especially because Mason said he has not been "enthused to get up and work out." A team official said Mason worked out at team headquarters only hours before the announcement.

"For any player to retire, he has to send a letter to the NFL stating this," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens' senior vice president of public relations. "Derrick Mason has not done that."

There has been speculation that Mason could be using retirement as leverage for a new contract. When he first sought an extension in March, Mason said he didn't know whether he would return to the Ravens without a new deal and would "explore other options" if he didn't have one. He would have earned $3 million in 2009.

Lamont Smith, Mason's agent, confirmed in an e-mail to The Baltimore Sun that the 12-year veteran has retired. Mason, who played eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans and four with the Ravens, did not return phone calls from The Baltimore Sun.

Smith said Mason's decision had "little if anything to do with Baltimore's refusal to grant him an extension." The agent added that Mason would not be doing any interviews for the next two weeks.

"He stated that emotionally and physically he did not feel up to the enormous demands that professional football requires to compete at the level that he is accustomed to competing," Smith said in the statement. "He asked me to delay the announcement of this decision out of respect for his former teammate Steve McNair. Given that Derrick just reached this decision Friday, he has not as of yet filed official papers with the league offices. We expect that he will do this when he gets around to it."

Mason's decision was announced two days after the funeral of McNair, a longtime friend who was shot and killed. Mason spoke at McNair's memorial Thursday.

"I have been thinking about this since season ended," Mason told, the Web site that first reported the announcement and shares the address of Mason's agent. "Emotionally I am just not that enthused. I have not been that enthused to get up and work out. ... It was getting to that point. This decision has nothing to do with the contract situation; I have made enough money, more than enough money.

"Emotionally, there are things that are more important. It's time right now. I don't know what's going to happen from here, but it's going to be really nice to see what life has in store for me. What I want people to remember about my NFL career is that I played hard ... played hard in practice and the game. I tried to make everyone better and would do anything to help."

Without Mason, there would be a huge hole in the Ravens' offense. Over the past two seasons, Mason has caught 183 passes - more than twice as many as any other Ravens receiver over that span.

Joe Flacco's top receivers would be Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, two players who have yet to meet expectations. The would-be third receiver, Marcus Smith, didn't catch a pass in his rookie season.

Clayton, one of Mason's closest friends on the Ravens, expressed disbelief when told of Mason's retirement.

"We don't know for sure," Clayton said. "I hope not, and I don't think it's true. I haven't heard that."

Only 16 days before veterans report to training camp, the Ravens' options to replace Mason are limited.

In gaining $3 million in salary cap room from Mason's retirement, the Ravens could sign a free agent. The top receiver available is Marvin Harrison, who had 60 catches and five touchdowns last season for the Indianapolis Colts.

Another possibility is revisiting a trade for Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall. The Ravens had talks with the Arizona Cardinals before the NFL draft about Boldin but considered the asking price (picks in the first and third rounds) too steep. The team also explored trading for Marshall, the Denver Broncos' wide receiver, but the Ravens' interest never became serious because of his legal troubles.

Mason said the Ravens don't necessarily need to add an additional receiver.

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