Ravens Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden is sitting in his home in Las Vegas, and he acknowledges being perplexed by some of the team's offseason moves, including the release of several veterans. Those decisions, though, will not play any part in his decision to return next season or retire.
Ogden, selected to the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 11 years in the NFL, said he will let general manager Ozzie Newsome know about his plans before the draft in April, in case the team has to select a replacement.
You can tell Ogden still is struggling with the decision. When he talks about it, he runs the gamut of emotions, and the inner turmoil is reflected in his voice.
"Right now, I can't get my focus back," Ogden said. "More than anything, I've got to get that back before I go into next season. Last year was a tough year. It was a good year as far as wins and losses, but my father died before the season started, and then the way it ended. After that, I knew I had to come back to Vegas to focus.
"Next season we're going to play a really tough schedule," Ogden said, "and I can't go in there not ready to play. I'm willing to put in the time as far as training, but my focus has to be there. If it isn't, then I'm just cheating myself and my teammates."
Ogden says he hasn't paid attention to all the team's offseason moves, but acknowledged Thursday that he recently talked to Newsome about some of them. He points out that the Ravens have lost former starting running back Jamal Lewis and two quality offensive linemen in starting right tackle Tony Pashos and left guard Edwin Mulitalo, a starter for four games until he missed the remainder of the season with an arm injury.
Mulitalo and Ogden have been partners on the left side since 1999, when Mulitalo became a full-time starter. The Ravens cut Mulitalo recently to make salary cap room, and also because they thought he couldn't make it through the 2007 season without breaking down physically.
Ogden suggested that he is not sure what the Ravens' plans are for the future. Is 2007 the last season before the window of opportunity is closed to win a Super Bowl, or are the Ravens starting to rebuild again? Third-year player Jason Brown has become a full-time starter at left guard after replacing Mulitalo, a nine-year veteran, last season.
"We've lost Pashos, Mu [Mulitalo] and J. Lew," Ogden said. "Edwin has had his share of injury problems, but I think at this point he is better than Jason Brown. If you're taking one more shot at a title run, then I think you bring Edwin back. If you're basing your decision on youth and potential, then you go with Jason Brown. But it's tough seeing some of the older guys leaving.
"But I'm not always in agreement with things they do around there," Ogden said. "The decisions they are making will not affect my decision. My decision will be based on solely how I feel and if I can regain my focus."
Ogden's return is possibly the key for another strong season for the Ravens, who finished 13-3 last year before losing, 15-6, to Indianapolis in a divisional playoff game. Besides losing two top linemen and the team's top halfback, the Ravens lost Pro Bowl outside linebacker Adalius Thomas and starting fullback Ovie Mughelli in free agency. The losses come from a team that had the league's No. 25 rushing attack.
If Ogden returns, the team can move third-year tackle Adam Terry to the right side, even though he played on the left side in college. You can expect him to struggle early. If Ogden retires, Terry plays on the left side and the Ravens either have to draft a right tackle or sign one in free agency.
The Ravens would prefer not to have Terry protecting quarterback Steve McNair's blind side - not yet, anyway.
"I still don't know what I'm going to do. I still don't know," Ogden said.
Ogden also emerged as an offensive leader last season. When the offense struggled early last season, it was Ogden - after meeting with the players - who approached head coach Brian Billick about getting rid of coordinator Jim Fassel. McNair gave the Ravens a swagger; Ogden had the clout.
The Ravens want Ogden back, and it would be different seeing another player on the left side other than No. 75. He's been a mainstay there since 1996, but it could be weeks before he makes a decision.
As of yesterday, he was still trying to regain the focus of a season ago. He was still struggling.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun