Lost in Tebow-mania and all the NFL playoff hoopla this week was the fact that Derrick Mason, the former Ravens wide receiver who is the franchise's all-time leader in pass receptions (471) and yards (5,777), has quietly announced his intention to retire.
In his six seasons in Baltimore, the two-time Pro Bowler quickly emerged as a media favorite in the Ravens locker room and the go-to guy for anyone with questions about the offense.
Smart, funny and articulate, Mason was also the ultimate loyal soldier, ready at a moment's notice to defend any of his teammates from what he felt was unwarranted criticism from the talk-show blowhards and ink-stained rabble-rousers in the press.
He was an especially staunch defender of Joe Flacco. Time and again, when the young quarterback was taking hits from the national pundits or fans, it was Mason who would rush to the nearest microphone or notebook and talk Flacco up as if he were the second coming of Brett Favre in his prime.
Mason, an outstanding route runner with excellant hands who caught 943 passes for 2,061 yards and 66 touchdowns, finished his career with brief, disappointing stints with the New York Jets and Houston Texans.
Sure, Mason could be a bit of a diva at times during his eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans and six seasons with the Ravens. He would get into it with Flacco and the Ravens coaches from time to time and throw his helmet in frustration when the offense was stalling and he felt he wasn't being targeted enough.
But no one cared more about winning than Mason. No one prepared better for each season. No one worked harder, either.
I would hear talk -- at least when he was with the Jets -- that he was wearing out his welcome because of his constant grumbling about his role on the team.
But I took that as a sign that Mason still cared, still cared about winning, still cared about being used the right way and helping the Jets be as good as it could be.
Now he's hanging it up, telling The Sun's Mike Preston that while he still feels fine physically, mentally he's had enough.
He had a great career, good enough to be mentioned for the Hall of Fame in Canton, although he probably won't get in.
But as a teammate and all-around good guy, he's a first ballot choice all the way.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun