Mason not backing down

OWINGS MILLS -- Derrick Mason has no intentions of backing down from his fiery rant Saturday night about not being more involved in the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

The emotional, two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was more detached and quiet one day after complaining that he was underappreciated immediately following the Ravens' 15-6 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but his basic position hasn't changed one iota.

Bottom line: Mason still isn't feeling the love from the coaching staff after catching only two passes for 16 yards against Indianapolis. He has seethed in anger mostly behind the scenes all season about his situation.

"I'm not going to deviate from anything that I said," Mason said. "I'm not because that's how I felt and I still feel the same way today and I'm going to feel the same way until...

"But I just never thought that I was considered a guy that was capable of going out there and making plays. All that I've done prior to this season, I thought it warranted that at least. And I just didn't feel for 16 games that I was given that opportunity."

If his statements wind up backfiring on him, if he's labeled as selfish or winds up not being in the plans of coach Brian Billick and general manager Ozzie Newsome, then Mason said at least he'll have exercised his right to free speech.

"Until you're in this position, you can't say if I'm selfish or not," Mason said Sunday while players cleaned out their lockers for the offseason. "There are a lot of people in the workplace that feel they're underappreciated, but don't have a voice to say it. I just happen to have a voice to say something and I will say it whether it's good or bad.

"I feel I've done enough in this league that I have a right to say what I want to say. I'm not going to disrespect coach Billick, he's a wonderful coach. Ozzie is the best GM in the league. I should be able to voice my frustration. I'm going to do it in a manner where I don't think I'm sounding selfish, but I just want to make it understood that this is how I feel."

Mason, who has three years remaining on his contract, described his mood as disappointed, not angry.

After signing a five-year, $20 million contract that included a $7 million signing bonus on March 2, 2005 to become the Ravens' go-to wide receiver, Mason saw his statistics diminish this season while second-year receiver Mark Clayton and rookie Demetrius Williams emerged as downfield threats. Mason finished second on the team with 68 receptions for 750 yards, but caught only two touchdowns while Clayton caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five scores.

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

After catching 86 passes for 1,073 yards to lead the Ravens in receiving in his first season with the team last season, Mason dipped to his lowest reception total since registering 63 in 2000 and it was his lowest receiving yardage since posting 333 in 1998.

Mason said he prefers to be back in Baltimore next season and doesn't sound inclined to seek a trade, but said he wasn't absolutely certain of his future with the Ravens.

"I don't know, my contract says I will be, but that's up to management to make that decision," Mason said. "Who would want to be without a job or who would want to, this quickly, go to another team? Some things just have to be addressed.

"You have to really sit back and see what your worth is to a team, and I guess the team has to see what your worth is to them. My plans are to be back in this locker room next year and hopefully make another run to a Super Bowl."

Mason entered this season having caught 29 touchdown passes from quarterback Steve McNair, the most of any receiver during their eight seasons together with the Tennessee Titans. However, that background didn't translate into the anticipated production based on their prior rapport.

"It was disappointing, but I have to realize that we have other receivers as well," Mason said.

"Mark had a great season, Demetrius had a great season. That kind of put a bright spot on it for me, to see those two guys grow up and really come on.

"I want to have an opportunity to be an impact on the offense. I could see if I was dropping balls or not getting open or not blocking hard, but I prided myself on catching the ball and running precise routes. I don't think I've wavered from that since I stepped into the league."

Mason said that receivers coach Mike Johnson is aware of his stance, but that he hasn't spoken with Billick.

Although cognizant that he's not going to be thrown to eight to 10 times per game in Billick's adaptation of the West Coast offense, Mason's greatest frustration seems to stem from his suggested play calls turning into opportunities for receivers not wearing No. 85, his uniform number.

"I've been in this game long enough that if I come back to the sidelines and say 'Well, see this, see this and see this?' I think there should be some type of sense of, 'OK, this guy does know what he's talking about,'" Mason said.

"He's been in this league long enough, and not just disregard what I say. I just felt like a lot of times, that's what happened.

"I would say something and maybe it was the tone and manner I said it in. But I just felt that at times when I came back and said something, it fell on deaf ears or it was, 'OK, we'll do this, but we'll go to the other side or do something else with somebody else. Maybe it wasn't that way, but that's the way it felt."

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

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