Ravens' Mason is happy and in the fold

Veteran returns as part of more accomplished cast

  • Wide receiver Derrick Mason, left, discusses his decision to return to the Ravens as coach John Harbaugh listens.
Wide receiver Derrick Mason, left, discusses his decision… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
April 14, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | The Baltimore Sun

Derrick Mason spoke to reporters for the first time since re-signing with the Ravens -- and for the first time without his usual clear-cut No. 1 receiver title.

The team's all-time receptions leader for a wide receiver, Mason acknowledged Wednesday that his opportunities will likely decrease now that the Ravens have added Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth this offseason.

But Mason, who agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal March 10, seemed confident that he will remain an integral part of the offense.

"Just because you go and buy a new pair of pants, do you go away from that favorite pair of pants?" Mason asked. "No, you don't, because you know that favorite pair of pants is going to work for you each time."

Analogies aside, the distribution of passes will likely be an adjustment for Mason, who often appeared to be the Ravens' first option on every passing play.

In his five seasons with the Ravens, Mason has accounted for 53 percent of the receptions by the team's wide receivers. In his two seasons with Joe Flacco as quarterback, Mason has caught 153 passes while the rest of the Ravens' wide receivers combined for 131.

Now, Flacco can go over the middle to Boldin or throw deep to Stallworth. The Ravens are hoping this is no longer a one-receiver offense, a notion that Mason endorsed Wednesday.

"Other guys [have] to get the ball, and I am all for it because I want to win, I want to win a Super Bowl," Mason said. "Point-blank that is it, but does it say, 'Well, we are totally going to go away from this guy'? No."

After signing as a free agent from the Tennessee Titans in 2005, Mason put up No. 1 receiver numbers but never garnered the same national attention as Randy Moss or Terrell Owens over the years.

He is the Ravens' all-time leader in receiving yards (4,975) and ranks second in career receptions (410) and receiving touchdowns (22). Wednesday's news conference seemed to be a way for Ravens officials to express their gratitude to Mason.

"When you look at the number of free agents [that] have been brought into Baltimore over the 15 years that we've been here, I don't think there has been any of them that have been more productive over a span of time of five years," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

"We could name players that have impacted the team, but not for the amount of time that Derrick has."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh mentioned some of his favorite moments with Mason, from the one-armed touchdown catch in Dallas (he was playing with an injured shoulder) to his "upside-down" touchdown grab in New England.

"Those are the things that define Derrick Mason," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh also pointed to the times that many don't see.

"He practices like a guy that's been in the league [for] three, four, five years; he can run all day," Harbaugh said. "And that's a testament to good DNA and genes, but also tremendous work ethic and the way he trains in the offseason. So, he's just the total package: receiver, person, family man, the whole thing."

Harbaugh added: "I know that everybody here in this organization, and probably the city of Baltimore, is proud that he's a Baltimore Raven and will continue to be a Baltimore Raven. I just can't wait to see what he does over the course of the next couple years."

Mason, 36, didn't rule out playing after this two-year contract runs out, saying he could go for five more years. He also acknowledged that he contemplated retirement after the season because of mental fatigue, but he always knew he could still play at a high level.

The hardest part of the offseason might have been the six days on the free-agent market. Not knowing where he could end up, Mason said, he hoped he would eventually come back to the Ravens.

"It was a no-brainer to sign back," Mason said. "I don't think there was any other team that intrigued me more than this team here. For me to go anywhere else, it would have been a step back."

Note: Mason talked with Ed Reed last week but said he doesn't know whether the Pro Bowl safety is returning or retiring. "I hope he doesn't retire, because I don't think there's another safety that, especially in the last 10 years, has played the way Ed has played at such a high level for so long," Mason said.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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