Ogden pondering whether to retire

OWINGS MILLS -- A cornerstone of the Baltimore Ravens for the past dozen years, Jonathan Ogden is preparing in earnest for the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of course, this contest Sunday against the AFC North champions could also mark Ogden's last football game at M&T Bank Stadium as he's contemplating retirement for the second year in a row.

"If it's the last one, hey, it's been a good ride," Ogden said Wednesday following practice. "If I do retire, I'll come back. Hopefully, they'll put me up in the Ring of Honor. I'll cross my fingers on that one."

A lock for that honor along with a future bust awaiting him at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Ogden isn't expected to make a hasty decision about whether to return for a 13th season as he took several months after last season before opting to return this year.

The thinking process on how he'll proceed is virtually identical this time with the primary difference being the Ravens' deteriorated status.

"It's pretty much the same: How healthy do I feel? Is the love and passion still there to be able to do it for a full season?" Ogden said. "I'll just kind of examine those things. Just what I think about where the team is headed, because I know at most, it would be for a year whereas I'm not looking long-term like, 'How is this going to look two or three years from now?'

"The biggest thing is right now, I just need probably a little time. After a year like this, everybody says I'm not coming back. People who have played one year don't want to come back. Joking, but it's a tough year, it's a long year. You want to get away from it before you figure anything out."

This trying season definitely doesn't help the Ravens' chances of coaxing Ogden into returning. One year after winning the division with a franchise-record 13-3 campaign, the Ravens (4-11) are in the midst of an unprecedented nine-game losing streak.

And Ogden, who was surprised to be named to the Pro Bowl for the 11th time, has battled turf toe and leg injuries all season.

He spent the majority of the offseason recovering from the hyperextended left big toe, exacerbating the ailment in the season opener in Cincinnati. It took him five weeks to get back on the field, but it's still bothering him.

Pain and effectiveness of play are two major factors in Ogden's impending decision. At 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, those joints are creaking more and more every year.

"There hasn't been a day this year I haven't been in the training room," Ogden said. "That gets a little frustrating. I have to get healthy. That's the thing right now.

"Everyone knows about the toe, but there are so many other things that are nagging. I see what they mean about when you get older, things just linger and nag more. That's just one of the things I'm battling with, physically and mentally."

The Ravens have no intentions of pushing Ogden for a quick decision in order to formulate their plans.

They already have tackles Adam Terry, Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda under contract for next season, so an immediate announcement isn't necessary.

"We will give him that time," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's not something we've really addressed or talked about because he deserves to take it at his own pace.

"You kind of want to believe that he's not going to go. So, we'll take it at the pace he decides, but it's been great to see him out there these last eight games."

Prior to kickoff Sunday, Ogden will be introduced along with the team's other Pro Bowl selections -- middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed.

"No matter what, I'll remember this one," Ogden said.

For Ogden, 33, it has been a long, successful run since Baltimore made him its inaugural draft pick in 1996 out of UCLA with the fourth overall selection.

He's won a Super Bowl title. He's been widely recognized as a future Hall of Fame selection as one of the most dominant and biggest offensive tackles in NFL history.

Now, he's approaching a career crossroads and has to decide whether to keep playing or hang up his cleats.

"I've grown so much in 12 years," Ogden said. "This game has done a lot for me as far as notoriety, but it just teaches you. It gives you a lot of good friends. It's a job I've loved doing for a long time.

"Not every day do I love coming to work. I won't blow smoke up your butt about that. But it's been a job that I've really enjoyed and I'm really privileged that I was able to do it. There have been no regrets about what I've done."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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