Mason renews verbal assault on Keyshawn

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason wasn't done inflicting verbal punishment on former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Not by a long shot.

In the wake of Johnson's recent criticism of the Ravens' wide receiving corps, Mason attacked the ESPN analyst immediately Wednesday before he could even be asked a question during a press conference.

"Damn Keyshawn Johnson, because I heard he said something else," Mason said. "Keyshawn knows where I'm at. He knows where the Ravens' facility is at. So, if he wants to hash this out man to man or you want to stack up numbers man to man and talk about it, we can do that.

"Remember, Keyshawn, you were a number one pick in the draft and I was a fourth-rounder. And our numbers still pretty much stack up. Let's go."

The reason behind the drama?

During a conference call on Sept. 2, Johnson said, "You want a bum, you pay a bum," in a reference to the Ravens' receivers.

They also drew criticism from former NFL receiver Cris Carter, an ESPN analyst like Johnson.

And Mason took it personally. He does appear to be enjoying the confrontation, though.

"I like it, it's fun," Mason said. "It's really fun. You're supposed to be building people up. A lot of people could have called him a bum, but they chose not to. ..

"If you understand what it takes to play at this level, then you won't disrespect a player like that because you know that these guys are working hard. If you're playing at this level, you can play regardless if you're a first-stringer or a third-stringer."

During an 11-year NFL career, Johnson caught 814 passes for 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns.

Mason has only been a starter since the 2000 season after initially working as a kick returner and reserve receiver for the Tennessee Titans. He has caught 747 career passes for 9,500 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Even though Johnson's comments were directed toward the Ravens' entire position group, Mason took it as an affront on his body of work.

"I took it as a personal shot, because I'm the elder statesman in the group," he said. "I know the other guys. Th ey're not going to say anything. It's like attacking me. You just don't do that. If you're going to attack the bunch, you're attacking me and I'm going to come back at you."

BIRK DOWNPLAYS DONATION: Ravens center Matt Birk is willing to give up a lot in the name of science.

Namely, donating his brain and his spinal cord to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine.

After he's dead, of course.

"It's a little bit morbid, but I just look at it as like being an organ donor," he said. "It's really not that big of a deal. Obviously when I'm dead, I won't need it. They can have at it and do what they want."

Birk joins Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Sean Morey as the first active NFL players to pledge to donate their brains after their deaths.

Birk has experienced three concussions, and said he was asked to make the donation because he played college football with one of the directors of the study.

"That's my connection," he said. "Probably that, and I'm just so good looking."

Repeated concussions have been linked to the onset of dementia in retired NFL players, including in the death by suicide of former NFL safety Andre Waters.

"That's the No. 1 concern," Birk said. "The decision to do this brain donation, if it can help, if doing stuff like this can help make the game safer for future generations, then why not?"

Will the researchers discover more brain tissue than normal since Birk is a Harvard graduate?

"They'll probably be disappointed," Birk said. "I'll probably dispel a lot of Harvard myths."

INJURY UPDATE: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Tom Zbikowski were sidelined for the entire practice due to concussions.

And free safety Ed Reed was limited with a concussion of his own.

"I've still got a slight headache, nothing too bad," Zbikowski said. "It's my first one. That's something you can't mess around with.

"It's not like a hamstring. It's something you don't want to be taking a chance with. It's not like the brain is something that can grow back."

Suggs is also dealing with a chest injury.

Meanwhile, starting inside linebacker Tavares Gooden participated fully in practice days after spraining his right knee against the Kansas City Chiefs. A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed that there was no ligament damage.

"Everything is cool," Gooden said. "Nothing is out of the ordinary or torn. I'm just getting back into a running mode. I'm not sure about Sunday yet. I'm going to get some more treatment and practice and see how it feels. I always think I'm playing.

"I got hit in the back of the knee on one of those little nerves on a kickoff return. It's kind of like hitting a funny bone. I sprained a little something. I'm fine. I'm just trying to see how I'm going to feel out there."

Tight end L.J. Smith (pulled hamstring) was limited as he returned to practice for the first time since getting hurt last month.

"I'm definitely feeling a lot better," Smith said. "I'm going to test it out and see what kind of progress I've made. Hopefully, I can push it and I'm trying to get up to game speed as much as I can. I don't want to do anything crazy, but you've got to push it."

Smith was unsure about whether he'll be able to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, but said he would prepare as if that's going to be the case.

"I would say it's possible," Smith said. "I just can't have another setback. I'll know by Friday if I'm going to be able to play. I feel good now."

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's sprained ankle and knee injury are coming around.

Ngata has been bothered by a bursa sac problem with his knee that occasionally swells up.

"I first had it two years ago," he said. "I just have to wait for it to heal up. It's an old injury."

BASKETT UPDATE: Since clearing waivers Wednesday after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver Hank Baskett has drawn heavy interest and he might agree to terms as soon as this morning.

The Ravens are among the teams that are involved as they remain interested in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound reserve receiver/special-teams standout.

NFL teams didn't place a waiver claim on Baskett primarily due to the fact that they would have assumed his $1.545 million restricted tender salary.

HE'S BACK: Rookie tight end Davon Drew is happy to be back in the Ravens' locker room after joining the practice squad on Tuesday.

It's been a rough stretch for the Ravens' fifth-round draft pick from East Carolina.

He was cut by the Ravens during their final major roster cutdown. Then, he was claimed by the Miami Dolphins off waivers.

After injuring his foot with the Dolphins, he was let go with an injury settlement. Since then, he tried out for the Ravens and was added to the practice squad.

"This past week or so has been very stressful not knowing if I was going to have a job," Drew said. "It all worked out in the end. This is where I wanted to be, where I started out. Obviously, I'm comfortable here, but certain situations came up."

Drew sprained his ankle during training camp and dealt with a foot issue as well. He initially flunked the team's conditioning test and was placed on the non-football injury list.

Drew said he had a conversation with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome when he was re-signed.

"Ozzie told me, 'Don't let me down,' and I won't," Drew said. "I can't let myself down. I've got to go to work and make sure I'm making an impact. I've still got to overcome some things. It's a learning process."

QUICK HITS: Wide receiver Mark Clayton said he hasn't been dealing with any hamstring pain or tightness since returning from a strained left hamstring against the Kansas City Chiefs and catching the game-winning touchdown pass. ... The Ravens are using large speakers around the practice field to simulate crowd noise. "The nonverbal communication is really important, and you've got to learn to shout real loud," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "At practice, we've got to talk really loud out here when the crowd noise is going." … Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (right ankle) didn't practice. He told San Diego reporters that he might be able to play. "It's not anything that is going to keep me out f or a long time," Tomlinson said. "We'll just wait and see how it plays out ... I'm taking it day by day. It is a sprain and that's all it is." ... Chargers center Nick Hardwick (ankle), defensive end Travis Johnson (groin), offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, offensive guard Louis Vasquez (knee) and nose guard Jamal Williams (elbow) didn't practice.

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