Derrick Mason made an unceremonious exit from the Ravens' roster last July with his release triggering strong feelings of hurt, anger and defiance from the veteran wide receiver.
Mason returned to the organization Monday with an
entirely different sentiment, one of reconciliation and mutual respect
as he officially retired from the NFL as a member of the Ravens.
For Mason, it was a day to remember his six
productive years in Baltimore where the two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver
established himself as the Ravens' all-time leading receiver.
"I will forever be indebted to this city," said
Mason, who wore the same suit to his retirement press conference that
he donned when he joined the team after spending the first eight years
of his career with the Tennessee Titans. "The decision wasn't hard to
retire, and the decision where to retire was just as easy. My heart was
here. It never left. My body left, but my heart stayed right in this
Mason, 38, built a reputation for toughness, sure
hands and a feisty nature on the football field, never missing a game
after joining the Ravens seven years ago.
He's the Ravens' all-time record holder with 471
receptions and 5,777 yards, ranking second in franchise history with 29
After years of failed attempts to upgrade the
receiving corps with an aborted trade for Terrell Owens and settling
for journeymen Kevin Johnson, Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson, the
Ravens landed Mason on March 7, 2005 by signing him to a five-year, $20
million contract that included a $7 million signing bonus and a total
of $11 million guaranteed.
The investment paid off handsomely, and general
manager Ozzie Newsome remains satisfied as he recalled the memory of
returning from the NFL scouting combine and being informed that the
Mason deal was finished. Mason chose the Ravens over a competing offer
from the New England Patriots.
"Over the 16, 17 years that we've been here, we've
signed a lot of free agents," Newsome said. "I don't know if there is
one player over the span of their career that did more for this
organization than Derrick Mason did. It could be argued that when you
list them all, what Derrick did in the years that he was here, he'd be
at the top or near the top."
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