J.O., in his own words

OWINGS MILLS -- Future Hall of Fame Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden reacts to his decision to retire from the NFL after a dozen seasons and 11 Pro Bowl selections. Here are his remarks on his career:

JONATHAN OGDEN RETIREMENT PRESS CONFERENCE

RAVENS GENERAL MANAGER OZZIE NEWSOME, T JONATHAN OGDEN, DT TREVOR PRYCE

& FORMER RAVENS T ORLANDO BROWN & G EDWIN MULITALO

General Manager Ozzie Newsome

Opening Statement: "This is a great day, in my opinion, a day we get the chance to celebrate No. 75 and his retirement from the Baltimore Ravens and the National Football League. I'm grateful to be the person to thank Jonathan for 12 years of unbelievable football. But, not only that, also for the way that he carried himself off the field and all of the contributions that he made to the City of Baltimore. It's been a great run. I've had the opportunity to enjoy each and every moment of it. I've had the opportunity to be in this league for over 30 years, and I had a chance to witness a lot of very, very good football players. But, in my opinion, in my humble opinion, there's not a player that I've seen in those 30 years that played their position as well as Jonathan Ogden played his position. It's unbelievable to watch him.

Part of the fun of my job is sometimes on a Monday when we are watching a game tape. Sometimes you could forget about the other 10 guys on the tape because you just end up watching how Jonathan dominated the player that he was playing against. I had a chance to read all the different articles today, and for those 12 years we did have a luxury. Not at any point against any defender did we ever have to worry about who was rushing from that right side because we had Jonathan Ogden as that blocker. We knew there were going to be some good battles, but we never, at any point, felt like Jonathan was going to lose one of those battles, and he didn't. So that was fun to watch.

"I want to clear up another thing that's kind of floating around: Jonathan has maintained contact with me throughout this whole offseason. He has not put this organization in a bad position because he has communicated very well with me. From the day after our loss to Pittsburgh, he came in and he sat down with me; and at that point everyone was wearing a 5-11 season, and Jonathan was wearing that that day. He was tired, he was worn out, and he told me he was going to take his time to make a decision. And throughout the offseason, he and I talked on several different occasions on where he was and what he'd like to do.

But the biggest thing he told me, he said, ‘I don't think my toe is going to allow me to play at a level that I want to play at.' He came to the facility sometime in mid-March and he saw the changes. He sat in on an offensive meeting and he saw Cam Cameron put the offense in. He went out to practice and he saw the weight room. And there was a glimmer in his eye. I think there was a feeling in the organization that with these changes J.O. might come back and finish this journey with us. But he left it where he left it, and he went back [to Las Vegas]. But, he maintained contact, and one day he even told me he shot a 77. Then on the day, I guess about three or four weeks ago, he and I had the conversation, and I asked him, I said, ‘J.O., I need to know at this point.' And he paused. And he said, ‘I'm done.' At that point I think it lifted a big burden off J.O. because he had finally made the decision. He had finally communicated that to me, that based on his health situation he no longer thought that he could play at a level he wanted to play at, so he was done. I could just feel how different it made J.O. feel when he gave me that information.

But, true to J.O. form, he wanted no fanfare. That was almost a month ago, and he asked me to just keep it between he and I. And I was able to do that. And that's hard to do in this business. At some point I told the head coach because he needed to know – I talked to John about it. I talked to Steve Bisciotti about it, because Jonathan wanted to have a personal time with Steve, but that's the course of action we took. He wanted to come here to have his day, and he wanted to have it on a day where it did not disrupt anything John had going, so this is the day that we chose. I just wanted to clear that up.

"The last thing before I turn it over to Jonathan is, 12 years ago, Mr. Modell gave me the opportunity to be the head of football with the Baltimore Ravens, and we were a young staff. We practically did not know exactly what we were doing. But, we embarked on a journey, and in that journey – and a lot of you in the media have heard me say year-in and year-out that we take the best player on the board – in that very first draft, we had some needs. But, we took the best player in that draft in Jonathan Ogden.

Now, for someone who was just starting out, it gave me a foundation and a platform, and it set the stage for the remainder of my career. It's been very easy for me to make decisions since that day because we did what we were supposed to do, what we were trained to do, and we took the best player, and that best player was Jonathan Ogden. And, now we have Jayden [Ogden's son] talking, and he's already committed to come to Alabama (laughing). We did it the right way, and Jonathan did it the right way for 12 years. Thank you Jonathan."

On the standard Ogden set for the offensive line: "I think not only did his playing transcend the game, but also the way he handled himself in the building, and the other players saw that. You know, when you're out there counting on him, and you can depend on someone like Jonathan to get his job done, I think that motivates you or helps you to really want to get you're job done. I think that helped our football team because not only did they get the chance to evaluate themselves, but they got the chance to watch their peers and teammates. And when you would watch Jonathan, and you could ask all the guys here, those guys would go back and say, ‘I can do a little bit more, because I see what he's doing, and I want to work to be an equal to him.' It wasn't just his play on the field, but he affected other people by the way he carried himself in this building."

T Jonathan Ogden

Opening statement: "A lot of you guys remember a couple years ago when I said that one day I was going to walk in here and say, ‘You know what? I think I'm done. Take it easy,' and just kind of walk out of here. I tried to tell Ozzie [Newsome] I wanted to do that, but he wouldn't let me. He made me have this press conference, so I decided to come here and just say my thing. It's been a great 12-year run. This town has been amazing to me. Teammates, old and new – Spencer [Folau], Kyle [Boller], Bart [Scott], Edwin Mulitalo, who came in from Detroit – just a whole lot of people who I've known and who have helped me through the years, and I want to thank everyone.

I also want to thank my family, my wife Kema, my son Jayden, my mother, my grandmother, my brother, my uncle, who are all here to support me. A couple other people I want to thank: Obviously, I want to thank Art Modell and David Modell, the Modell family. Another man I want to thank is Ozzie Newsome, for bringing me in here over Lawrence Phillips. I think that was a good decision. Brian Billick, John Harbaugh, Steve Bisciotti, everyone in this organization who has been a crutch for all the players. We all lean on everybody in this building, from Ed Carroll in equipment to [head medical trainer] Bill Tessendorf in the back. I just want to say that I could not have done all the things that I have done in this career here if it hadn't been for these guys. I want to thank you all, as well.

"I guess you kind of want to know what made me decide that it was time to go. I'm sure you're going to ask the question, so I might as well go ahead and get it out right now. You know, when you play football as long as I have – for 22 years – and you play at a high level, it's really difficult when you know that injuries just won't let you play at the level that you all and myself expect me to play. It was really difficult, mentally. Could I have still gone out there and played?

Yes, probably, and still done an adequate job. In my mind, I wouldn't have been helping the team as much as I needed to, and it wouldn't have been good for me. Right now, I just want to see all the young guys – Jared Gaither, Adam Terry – come in and still stay around here for a bit to help these young guys get better, because you know what? I'm a Baltimore Raven for life, obviously. I mean, there's no doubt about that. I definitely plan on being around here in this community. There's no doubt about that. I'm going to keep my foundation going because over the last 12 years helping out – I've got some kids from Patterson High School here right now who my foundation has helped – there's no reason I should not [continue]. Even though I won't be out there on the field, I plan on being out here in the community as much, if not more. Hopefully, those things will come to fruition."

On how clear he is that his retirement is permanent: "Oh yeah, you don't have to worry about me coming back. That won't be happening. That's why it took me so long, really. I knew at the end of last season that I probably wasn't going to come back, but, at the same time, when you make a decision like that you need to give it time. You don't make that decision just on a whim. When I decided about a month ago when I talked to Ozzie, I knew that I wasn't coming back. I just wanted to find the right time to come here and announce it and try to just not interfere with what's going on with the Baltimore Ravens because we've got a lot of good things going on around here. I just kind of wanted to be a side note to it."

On memories from playing guard his first season: "You know what? I'll go back a little farther than that, before playing guard. I remember when I got drafted, and I was in New York. I remember Ozzie called me up on the phone. I remember I came out, ‘The Baltimore Ravens select an offensive tackle from UCLA, Jonathan Ogden,' and we had a hat, a white hat with black letters that said ‘Baltimore Ravens' and a black coat with white letters that said ‘Baltimore Ravens.' I'm like, ‘What is this?'

We didn't even have any colors. I remember coming to mini-camp, and on my first rookie card I had a white helmet on. Those first years were a blur on the field, once we got our colors finally. I remember I was out there just running around like a chicken with my head cut off, so to speak, [lining up] between Tony Jones and Steve Everitt, two really good players who helped teach me a lot at the beginning of my career. Those Memorial Stadium days, that was an experience going out there to play, but it made me appreciate M&T Bank [Stadium] even more when we finally got it open."

On what emotions he has about retiring: "It's a mixed emotion, honestly. There's a huge part of me that is still going to miss playing football. There's no doubt about it. Like I said, I've been doing this for 22 years. But at the same time, I realize that it's time. They say that you know when it's time, and you really do. I know that I gave everything I had out here for 12 years. I left it out there every Sunday on the field for this town, for myself and for this organization. I can look back and have no regrets on how I played and what I did out there on the field. You know, I'm a little bit like I wish I could come back, but at the same time it's like, ‘You know what? You did what you had to do, and it's time to move on.'"

On what he plans to do next: "I've talked to a couple guys, actually Darrell Green, Anthony Muñoz, Eric Dickerson – a lot of guys who golf. I've talked to them a little about the transition. Everyone has a little different advice. I think the advice I like the most is don't rush into anything. I've been doing something for so long that I might need to take a little time. With that being said, I know that I can't play golf forever. Primarily, right now, I'm going to focus on staying involved in the Baltimore community.

Really, that's one thing I know that I want to do. How I'm going to get about it, how I'm going to accomplish that, I'm not sure. Two things: play golf and stay involved in the community. Those two things I'm going to do. As far as a year or two from now, we'll see. You can't worry about what you're going to do [and let that] make you stay here in this game. I can't let that affect my decision, so I'm just going to go out and roll the dice like I'm in Vegas. I'll just roll them and see what happens."

On opposing players and plays that stick out in his memory: "I've had a lot of good battles over the years, recently with Dwight Freeney to the old days with Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd. I remember a play my rookie year. ‘Zeus' [Orlando Brown] will probably remember this: We were playing St. Louis, and we had a screen play. As offensive linemen, we like to think we're really athletic and agile. I was younger then, and we threw the screen pass to Earnest Byner, who was 34. He was about my age now when I was young. I tell you, he caught the ball, and I ran down the field about 40 yards and Earnest did not keep up with me. I ran the safety over, and Earnest still got tackled.

Earnest swears to this day, if you ask him – he'll remember the play – he'll say that he was waiting on me, but I looked at the film. [I'll remember] all those young athletic plays I used to make. Also, when I caught Deion Sanders in the Pro Bowl my second year. The story probably gets a little more [exaggerated]. I tell the story as I just ran him down and he had a head start. If you look at the film, he had to bob and weave, but I ran about 80 yards in Hawaii and caught Deion, got my hands on him. That was a highlight of my career because I'll still be talking about that in five, 10 years."

On whether he ever thought he might leave the Ravens for another team: "No, there was never a time. That's one thing about this organization – from when Art was here to Steve, all these guys – it's a first-class organization. There's never been any time when I felt like they didn't want me here or I felt like I didn't want to be here. It was just a perfect match when I got picked by this organization. In this business, especially in the era of free agency, you get so many people changing teams so often.

It's good for the game, but at the same time, when you get that guy who can play their entire career for one team, that really is special – [like] myself, Michael Strahan. You look at other guys. Brett Favre had two teams; people forget Atlanta. Jerry Rice, the greatest of all time, [played in] Oakland and San Francisco. To be one of those guys that actually from Day One [is with] one organization to the end, I really feel proud and blessed to have been able to do that in my career."

On being a nice guy, but playing with a mean streak on Sundays: "I think it's just the mental makeup of most linemen. Most of us are nice guys, but when you put that helmet on Sunday, you have to have the mentality that you are going to destroy the person in front of you. Not literally, but you have to take them out. That's always been my philosophy from Day One: Play as hard as you can, bring as much intensity and passion to the game as you can and leave everything you have out there on the field. Sometimes, emotions kind of show on the sidelines.

It was always for the love of the game and for us wanting to get better and me wanting us to do better. I think everyone appreciated that, though. If I was laidback all the time, people would look at me kind of like, ‘What is wrong with this guy? Why can't he get fired up?' When you see me know, I'll smile and crack a joke with you just as fast as anything else. But definitely, I'm going to miss those tirades on the sideline. I'm going to miss them."

On having several current and former players on hand: "It means a great deal to me, from the old to the new school. It just makes me feel like they appreciate what I brought to this organization and me as a person. I appreciate and love them for that. Football teams are families. When one person leaves the family, it's good to see the other people care. I just can't thank them enough for being here. I'll be at the games. I saw a couple guys last night down at the Fogo de Chao. I said if they mess up on the field, I'll be down there cussing them out, so they better keep it going."

On how he'll feel when the Ravens play their first game of 2008: "I don't know how I'll be. I anticipate I'll be fine with it. Honestly, I didn't want to be that guy who hung on a year too long. I'd rather leave a year too early than a year too late. I actually think I'm lucky. I think I've made the leap at right time. I think last year would have been a little too early, but I think playing one more would be a year too late. So I'm really comfortable with this decision, and I'm looking forward to going to the first home game and just kind of watching and being a football fan again. I haven't gotten the chance to be a Ravens' fan yet. I've been playing for so long here that I wanted to sit there and just watch and root and be like everybody else who gets mad at the TV. I'm looking forward to that. It should be fun."

On being mentioned as a future Hall of Fame inductee: "I've heard all this. I was watching Mike & Mike the other day, and they were talking about it. Honestly, just to be mentioned in that whole discussion is truly an honor. As a lineman, you just come in, and you want to do your job. You don't want the fanfare. Well, you don't expect the fanfare. You probably would like it, but we don't expect it. We know we're mushrooms, in the dark. ‘Just go ahead and feed them.' Now that my career is over, I look up and look back and realize the career that it's been. Just the fact that I'm mentioned with Brett Favre, Larry Allen, who I loved watching when I was in college and he was a young guy, Junior Seau, a guy who, my goodness, played 18 or 19 years, Strahan, all these guys. It's just really a blessing to be mentioned in the same breath as them as potential Hall of Fame guys. But you know what? I'm not going to concern myself with that because there's too much to worry about right now."

On how much his father has been on his mind today: "Quite a bit. He's the reason I started playing football, really. He played at Howard. Losing him two years ago, it was tough, but I know he'd be proud of me today. I think he'd be happy with the way I've handled myself over my career and the things that I've been doing in the community. So I think that I as long as I feel he'd be proud, then I'm OK."

On his favorite memory from the 2000 Super Bowl season: "Well, on the field it would be the game against Oakland where Shannon [Sharpe] caught that 96-yard touchdown reception. I remember Edwin didn't know where he was out there that game. And I remember Harry Swayne – I remember Harry he, uh, didn't you hold on that touchdown? He held, and they didn't pull the flag. I remember Patrick Johnson pushing Shannon down the field. That's my most vivid memory. I just see Shannon, and Patrick pushing him. And off the field, we had this tradition in those days. We started it around Week 8… What, did we win 12 games that year?

All the linemen started getting in the cold tub, this water is 50 degrees, and we'd go under for about five, 10 seconds. I just remember we said that we weren't going to stop doing this until we lose, and wouldn't you know it, we didn't lose. So for 12 straight weeks we're getting into that cold tub. After practice it was like, ‘OK, it's time to go under.' And we'd do it. Then in the Super Bowl we found these little teeny tubs, but we still found a way to get it done. But, you know we're superstitious and we got it going."

On how he would like his career to be remembered: "I would just like to be remembered as the guy who was respected by everybody. When I stepped on the field as an offensive tackle, [I wanted it so] that defensive end knew they were in for a long day. It's so hard, because we don't have the stats, so it's more about how much people respect you. I just want to be one of the most respected linemen to play the game, really. And I think I have done that. But as long as there is a memory of a person, who, when I was out there on field, just gave it his all and tried to have fun with the game, [that's good]. It's still a game at the end of the day. You have to have fun out there."

On if he'd make any changes to his career: "No. I mean, yes, but no. About the football played on the field, no, there's not. I really think everything went well, went about as well as could be. I came in here, played 12 years relatively injury-free, except for this toe and things, but no surgery. Eleven Pro Bowls in 12 years and a Super Bowl ring… I can't complain at all, and I really think it's been a blessing and a great 12-year career here."

On comments about him redefining the position: "I'm modest. I've always been, will always continue to be. I feel honored to hear that. I think there will be other guys who will be as good as me. It's hard to get my size, strength and athleticism and everything. But, there will be another one. I always thought Anthony Munoz defined the position. [He was] the first one, but you know if people want to say I was the next one to re-define it, I'm very happy with that and I'll take that. I'm not going to be too modest anymore; I'm retired (laughing). If people can play like me, more power to them, I'd love to see it."

On other players who impacted his play, and players he impacted: "The beauty of football is that everybody helps each other. The old guys helped me when I came in. Zeus was here when I first got here, Wally [Williams], Steve Everitt, Tony Jones. I knew how to play offensive line, obviously, but they showed me how they do it in the NFL. I learned quickly what I needed to do to be an NFL-caliber lineman. Then you have younger guys, like Edwin – who's not that young anymore, but when he first came in he was a young guy – and him and Mike Flynn, we would take them under the wing and tell them how to get it done around here. I used to cuss him out every now and then if he didn't quite get it, but he got it. We had a nice little run for six or seven years. It was a long time. And then you help other guys in other ways. I taught Kyle how to swing a golf club (laughing). Just relationships over the years, how you deal with people, how you have someone you can always relate to, that's really the best part about it."

On advice for T Jared Gaither: "I would tell him don't try to be me. I'd tell anybody to try and be the best player they can be. That's how I approached the game throughout my entire career – just trying to do the best job I could do every day, every game, try to keep getting better. And that's what I will tell him: ‘Don't try to be me, be Jared.' And hopefully Jared will be as good, if not better, one day, hopefully. That's what I'm hoping for this organization. But, don't feel the pressure too much. Just go out there and have fun with it, because at the end of the day it's still just a game. And doing the best you can, you know, will generally be enough. You don't need that extra pressure."

On the 2003 season when Jamal Lewis ran for 2,066 yards: "It's like you always remember the things that didn't happen. If you're winning games, great, but if you lose it you always remember the losses more. I remember that we didn't get the record against Pittsburgh. I remember we started off good, and that just at the end they were like, ‘You can throw on us if you want, but we are not letting Jamal Lewis break this record.' I remember just the way our attitude was.

On a positive note, we had an attitude and mentality as an offensive line that year that we are going to open up holes, and that this is what our offense is, and we are going to pound and pound. The Cleveland game, when [Lewis] went for an 82-yard [touchdown], me and Edwin knocked somebody around and I saw [Lewis] sprinting through. The whole mentality, when we'd all look at each other and think, ‘This is what football is about and this is how we do it,' [was special]. That was probably my most fun year. The Super Bowl was the most fun year, but as far as the way we approached the games, that was probably my most fun year. As an offensive lineman, they say I was a great pass-blocker. But you know what? If you don't want to run block as an offensive lineman, then you don't need to be an offensive linemen. We don't get stats or anything. All we get to do is hit people, so you might as well take advantage of it."

On whether he would be able to retire with no regrets if he hadn't won a Super Bowl ring: "I probably could have. It's hard to answer because I have one, but I think that it's always about just how the body feels, how the mind feels. You just know it's time. Sometimes, you just know when you know. I think no matter what had happened – there might have been a little more regret, maybe – but I think the same outcome would have come to fruition because I would've done the same thing, especially with this foot."

DT Trevor Pryce

General statement: "I'm the one guy in this room that's played against [Ogden]. I am not happy to see him retire, but if I played for another team, of course I'd be happy to see him retire. The thing about Jonathan, for me, is the game came effortlessly to him. I think that every offensive lineman or every player in that respect, if he's that good, then he's a Hall of Fame guy. I've only played against Jonathan in a live-bullets situation once, and that was more than enough. I can remember one particular play: I was playing right defensive end for Denver the year after I hurt my back. Baltimore came in there, and we won by three points even though they had no team left.

I come around the corner and thought, ‘Oh, he's 380 pounds. Let me try to throw him out of the way.' I don't think he lifted a foot off the ground. In the middle of the play, he said, ‘Oh man, are you all right? You can't do that. Your back hurts!' That was my most vivid memory. In the middle of the play, he's trying to help me out. I actually played OK. I think I had half a tackle, which is actually pretty good. I didn't get near the quarterback, not one time. Kyle can attest to that.

"[Ogden has had] a great career, and I'm happy to see him walk away under his own power. In my 11 years of playing this game, he is by far the best I've played against."

Former Ravens T Orlando Brown

On how Ogden's retirement will affect the team: "They are going to miss him, especially on Sundays. We will probably go to the gym. As a team, you're going to miss him, miss him a lot. My hat goes off to him. He was a great one."

On where he thinks Ogden ranked all time: "He was No. 1. He was a great left tackle and a great guard. He could play right tackle. He could play right guard. He could play center. You know what? He could even play tight end, too. Anywhere on that offense, I think he could play. If he was smaller, they probably would have put him at wide receiver because every game, every day in practice, he knew where the receivers lined up, and he knew where the running backs line up at. Usually, with most linemen, when they call the number and say ‘roll 34,' most of us would be like, "All right, 34," and that's all that we listen for. We all know who we've got. But J.O. knew who everybody had. So if somebody didn't know something, we'd ask him, and he would tell us."

On what he admired most about Ogden's play: "His technique to the game. When I first saw him, and I think Dan Footman was with him in camp, he was shutting him down. He was playing guard, and I was like, ‘This boy is 6-foot-9 and he is going to get nailed playing guard.' But man he was shutting him down and grabbing him and throwing him. I stuff, ‘This [stuff] is amazing to me.' I had never seen a guy like this and I've been in the league for awhile. I'm watching, and I'm like, ‘Damn, he kicked his foot out.' He would get his hands inside and move his foot.

Everything was always right and everything was always perfect. I learned how to step to the left. He told me how to step to the left. It's a technique you have to go through and you have to do when you're playing ball because most guys can do their right foot. Like I said, he's a technician. He's the best out there."

On if he taught Ogden how to throw his helmet on the sideline: "No, he never got that from me. I always got on him for that. I'd always tease him like, ‘Stop throwing your helmet.' I would always mess with him. I actually knew when he was going to do it. I used to say, ‘I bet he's going to throw his helmet. Watch, if we get one more offsides [penalty], he is going to throw his helmet,' and down he'd throw it."

Former Ravens and current Lions G Edwin Mulitalo On his time playing with Ogden: "He is a cool cat. We had a lot of great experiences together. Those are the kind of things that keep you going after football. Obviously, football is the thing that brings us together. When it's done, then you see the true character of who we really are."

On Ogden's reputation of being cheap with his spending: "I shouldn't say he's cheap. I should say he's frugal. When [former Ravens C] Mike Flynn pays for [Ogden's] matinee movies every time we go to watch a movie, then there's nothing to say about that. It's funny because those are the kinds of things that last longer than the football stories."

On why he flew in for Ogden's announcement: "I'm here today because I want to show my gratitude to him for helping me to become who I am today. I wanted to show him that my family and I are thankful, and I wanted to show our gratitude for him. We wanted to let him know we love him, and in this part of his life, let him know we still have his back."

On what he thinks about Ogden's future Hall of Fame bid: "I tell my son, ‘I'm going to the Hall of Fame, too,' because when they have [Ogden's] picture on the wall, you will be able to see my No. 64 jersey on the side. So, hopefully, I will get one of those pictures. It's exciting to be a part of this because not many guys go to the Hall. He's a shoe-in, so I'm grateful to be here."

On when he first realized how great of a player Ogden was becoming: "I watched him at UCLA when I was still in Arizona. When I got here to Baltimore, that's all I knew of Baltimore. When I got drafted to Baltimore, my family thought it was an arena team. So, to come here and play next to J.O. – knowing that he was an awesome player – was a huge advantage for me."

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


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