Mason Says He's Here To Stay, At Least This Year

August 03, 2009|By KEVIN COWHERD

The joke at Ravens camp Sunday was that Derrick Mason would arrive by helicopter for his first post-retirement news conference.

The star wide receiver would be lowered on a rope ladder to the practice field at McDaniel College, where a band would play and the crowd would cheer and the media would eat it up, especially the TV people, who always whine they need better "visuals" anyway.

Only it didn't work out that way.

Look, there's a recession going on. Know how much it costs to rent a chopper these days? And the band - you'd have to pay them OT for working on a Sunday, pick up their lunch tab, reimburse them for travel expenses, etc.

It gets kind of pricey - even for a guy with Steve Bisciotti's cash-flow.

So, instead of all that, Mason simply stepped up to a lone microphone behind the goal posts after the Ravens' rain-soaked morning practice.

"T.O. was in Buffalo not even a day and he got a band!" Mason joked, referring to Terrell Owens, the head-case wide-out now with the Bills. "I've been here four years and I can't even get the Girl Scouts to come out. That's bad."

On his first official day back, Mason was in a fine mood and said all the right things.

He said he was happy to be back catching footballs and trash-talking with his teammates.

He said he wasn't trying to pull a Brett Favre on the Ravens, retiring and un-retiring every five minutes until people wonder what in God's name is wrong with you. ("No, man, I don't know what Favre's doing. I guess he's able to do what he's doing playing 18, 19 years ...")

He said his brief retirement had nothing to do with money or extending his contract.

He said he hasn't made a decision about playing in 2010 ("I'm just concentrating on [this season], honestly.")

He said he appreciated the personal sit-downs with head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and the phone calls of support from teammates such as Joe Flacco and Jared Gaither.

And, because Favre, the NFL's Hamlet, has forever lowered the bar when it comes to pro football retirements, Mason reiterated that his decision to un-retire was final.

"No, once I say I'm back with the team, I'm back with the team," he said. "I told Coach Harbaugh if I was coming back, I'd be 100 percent with the team," he said. "So I'm back, so I'm 100 percent with the team."

But my favorite moment of the whole news conference was when someone asked Mason if he found that he missed training camp the past week.

Mason did a double-take, which is what anyone who ever slogged through a football training camp would do.

"No, it was hot, man! Are you crazy?" he said. "I did not miss it at all. I missed the guys, you know. But running around and playing ... no, I didn't miss it."

Trust me, if you're ever around a football player and he starts reminiscing fondly about two-a-days in August, get away from that guy as soon as possible.

As to exactly what caused him to suddenly announce his retirement 21 days ago, well, Mason was pretty vague about that.

Sure, he said the slaying of his good friend Steve McNair affected him.

"When something like that happens out of the blue," he said, "it makes you think about certain things, where your life is headed, where your football career is headed. So that was a factor. But there were a lot of other things that were a factor also."

But it was obvious from the way he tap-danced around those "other things" that something else was going on in Mason's life when he retired.

And maybe it's still going on. But whatever it is, Mason obviously feels he can concentrate on football again, which is great news for the Ravens, whose passing game would have been a mess without him.

Let me be the one, though, to throw a damper on the "Welcome Back D-Mase!" parade: Now the Ravens better hope his shoulder holds up.

Sure, his play with that shoulder injury last season - he played the whole second half, including three playoff games with it - was one of the gutsiest things I've ever seen on a football field.

We all remember seeing him limp off the field in agony after taking big hits last year, only to get treatment and trot back to the huddle a few plays later.

Now the question is: is the shoulder 100 percent again? Mason seems to think so - sort of.

"The shoulder's fine," he said. "I didn't get hit today, but it's fine. I'm waiting to get hit one of these days and we'll see how the shoulder reacts. But for now, it's doing pretty good."

Which is good enough for the Ravens at this point.

Even if they didn't spring for the chopper, they're thrilled to have him back.

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