Notebook: Mt. Mason erupts again

BALTIMORE -- Outspoken wide receiver Derrick Mason bubbled over in frustration following the Baltimore Ravens' one-and-done postseason.

Mason, who has seethed all season about not being involved more in the offense, voiced another complaint following the Ravens' 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Saturday in an AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Mason caught only two passes for 16 yards as second-year wideout Mark Clayton finished with a game-high six receptions for 73 yards.

"It has been frustrating from the standpoint of working so hard in the offseason and then, in the season, it's like you just don't feel appreciated," Mason said. "That's the way I feel. Whether it's wrong or right, whether you say it's selfish or not, anyone in the workplace wants to feel appreciated at some point and I just didn't.

"I didn't feel appreciated the whole season. That's what it boils down to."

Mason finished the regular season second on the team with 68 receptions for 750 yards, but caught just two touchdowns.

Tight end Todd Heap led the team with 73 catches for 765 yards and six touchdowns.

Plus, Clayton emerged as a deep threat with 67 catches for 939 yards for five scores while rookie wideout Demetrius Williams contributed 22 catches for 396 yards and two scores.

"I can take my hat off to Mark for having a great season and Demetrius for coming on," Mason said.

"I guess some things had to be taken away for those guys to have very productive seasons. As a worker, you must feel appreciated to play at maximum peak. At times, I just didn't feel like they considered me a playmaker. I feel the same way again: frustrated."

Mason is under contract next season after signing a five-year, $20 million contract on March 2, 2005 that included a $7 million signing bonus. Although the two-time Pro Bowl selection said he definitely wants to return, he made it clear that he's unhappy with his current status in the Ravens' offense.

"I don't know," Mason said when asked if he will be back. "I don't want to say anything that will give them more leeway. They're going to think what they're going to think. If they want to keep me, that's what they're going to do.

"I'm not going to worry about it. I will condition myself so I can play at a high level. Hopefully, that appreciation will come here. I think this is a great organization. I would love to come back and play for them. If they feel like they have to make some changes, so be it."

THOMAS' STATUS UP IN THE AIR: Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas is expected to be one of the top commodities available if he hits the open market as he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

While Thomas hasn't closed the door on returning to Baltimore, he's expected to garner lucrative offers from other teams if he tests his market value.

"Now is the time to address it since the season is over," Thomas said. "We'll sit down whenever they're ready and we'll go from there."

A former Pro Bowl special-teams ace who made the Pro Bowl for the first time this year as a defender, Thomas is known for his versatility, productivity and unusual speed for a 6-foot-2, 270-pounder who can line up at safety, linebacker or defensive line.

The Ravens haven't done much negotiating beyond preliminary talks with Thomas' agent, Bus Cook. They could assign Thomas the franchise tag if negotiations aren't productive.

When asked to reflect on his time in Baltimore if this winds up being his last game in a Ravens uniform, Thomas replied: "I had fun. It was a great seven years, won a Super Bowl here, the guys are great. That's how the business is going."

KICKING IT: The Colts were the top-seeded team in the AFC last season, expected by many to win the Super Bowl, but their season ended when kicker Mike Vanderjagt, money during the regular season but erratic in the postseason, missed badly at the end of their home loss to Pittsburgh in the divisional round. So the Colts lured away kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has famously won AFC Championship games and Super Bowls with his accurate right leg, away from New England as a free agent.

Vinatieri proved every bit as clutch as his reputation on Saturday in Baltimore, going five-for-five on field goal attempts to provide every point scored by the Colts.

He converted from 23 yards, from 35, from 42, from 48 and he hit a career playoff-long 51-yarder that bounded off the crossbar and through the uprights.

He has been successful on 34 postseason field goals, the all-time NFL record. If playoff pressure affects him, he sure doesn't show it.

"You just try not to let all the implications and all the extra hype and that stuff get to you," he said. "You really just have to go out there and focus in on what you're doing and hope for the best."

KEY COMPLETION: The Ravens' secondary gave Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning trouble all day, so it was ironic that the Colts essentially clinched the game on a play that featured textbook coverage from nickel back Corey Ivy.

It was third-and-five at the Baltimore 45 with 3:57 remaining. The Ravens trailed 12-6. The Colts had just used their last timeout. If the Ravens could force a punt, they'd have a chance for a game-winning touchdown drive.

But Manning delivered a perfect pass to tight end Dallas Clark on an out pattern for 14 yards and a first down. The pass was low and outside, just past Ivy's fingertips and Clark made a fine catch.

"Corey Ivy could not have had better coverage on that play. I'm telling you , he could not have covered it any better," Manning said. "I threw the ball where he can't get his hands on it, and was in the right spot and that was as big a third-down conversion as we've had in some time."

Six plays later, Vinatieri kicked his fifth and final field goal.

QUICK HITS: Baltimore Orioles legend and freshly-minted Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Cal Ripken Jr. was the Ravens' honorary game captain, handing the coin over to the referee for the toss. … The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks Jamaine Winborne, David Pittman and Derrick Martin along with running back P. J. Daniels, fullback Nick Luchey, offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and wide receivers Devard Darling and Clarence Moore. … The Colts deactivated wide receiver Ricky Proehl (hamstring), defensive backs Tim Jennings and T.J. Rushing, linebacker Gilbert Gardner, defensive end Bo Schobel, offensive guard Matt Ulrich, offensive tackle Dan Federkeil and wide receiver John Standeford. … Mason on the season being over after the best record in franchise history and highest playoff seed ever: "If you don't win the Super Bowl, all you did during the regular season means nothing. All they remember is what you did in the playoffs. We can't sugarcoat it. Anyone that held an offense to 15 points should be able to win a football game and we didn't. After a bye week, we had nothing. We laid an egg basically." ... For only the fourth time in NFL history, neither team scored a touchdown. It was the first time since a 1979 game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... Safety Ed Reed's two interceptions gives him three for his postseason career, one behind Duane Starks' franchise record of four. ... Reed is the second defender to record two interceptions in one playoff game following Starks' two against the Oakland Raiders on January 14, 2001 in the AFC title game. ... Matt Stover's 51-yard field goal is the longest in Ravens playoff history and in his postseason career. ... The Ravens dropped to 5-3 all-time in the postseason. ... The attendance of 71,162 set a Baltimore football record. ... The Ravens will have a brief team meeting today with Brian Billick scheduled to talk to reporters again on Monday.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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