WR Choose Baltimore Over New England?

Former Ravens player chose the Ravens over the Patriots when he had a chance to shine, and ended up finishing out his career in unceremonious fashion.

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 room."

   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 touchdown catches.

   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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