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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Nothing left to prove, Ogden should retire

By Mike Preston

The Baltimore Sun

January 30, 2008

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Ravens Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden should retire.

It's not that Ogden can't play at a high level anymore. In fact, he could play three or four more seasons and still be one of the best in the NFL.

The problem is that Ogden is a perfectionist and is used to being the best. And when he isn't playing up to his expectations, it eats at him.

At age 33, and after playing 12 pro seasons, Ogden can never meet his expectations again. What else is left for him to accomplish? He has made 11 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and is possibly the best offensive lineman to ever play the game.

There were moments last season when he was the Ogden of old. Just ask New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour or Patriots outside linebacker Adalius Thomas.

But overall, Ogden knew he wasn't his old self, and his immense pride probably won't allow him to have another subpar season.

The Ravens would love for Ogden to play in 2008. When in decent playing shape, he is still better than 90 percent of the other tackles in the league. He would give the Ravens veteran leadership on a young offensive line.

"I'm still in the same place; I'm still leaning toward not coming back," Ogden told The Sun on Monday at the Super Bowl in Phoenix. "If I do, I have to feel healthy. I can't go through what I did last season. I can't be getting treatment every day. And with a new regime, it's going to be more work."

Ogden has never liked to work out in the offseason. He is one of those freaks of nature who was just bigger, stronger and faster than anyone else on a football field.

Some years, I think he just woke up, looked at his watch and calendar, scratched his head, threw some clothes in a duffel bag and reported to training camp.

But that can't happen anymore. Nobody beats Father Time. Ogden learned that during the 2005 season when Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney embarrassed him on national TV.

As a player gets older, he has to work harder. Ogden hired a personal trainer during the offseason heading into 2006. He watched his diet and kept his weight down.

The old Ogden showed up in 2006 and earned another Pro Bowl appearance.

But I'm not sure Ogden wants to put his body, or his mind, through those grueling offseason workouts again. I'm not sure the commitment is there.

Ogden got married a couple of years ago and has a son who will soon be 3 years old.

The injuries have taken their toll. There is the turf toe that bothered him from the end of 2006 all the way through 2007. There also have been numerous hamstring injuries throughout his career.

It's no secret that Ogden didn't care much for coach Brian Billick. He also didn't have much respect for former offensive line coach Chris Foerster.

There are some in the Ravens' organization who are hoping Ogden might be persuaded to play another season because of the addition of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator and John Harbaugh as head coach.

They think Harbaugh might take it easy on Ogden in training camp, much as Billick did for a few other veterans. But that could set a bad precedent. You can't give this team a lot of wiggle room because Ravens players won't handle it well.

When Ogden missed most of training camp last summer, it caused quite a stir among some players who felt he was well enough to practice. There was speculation that Ogden withheld his services during the season because he was bothered by the play-calling and knew the Ravens had little chance to advance to the postseason.

I don't believe that.

What I've seen during the past 12 seasons is the best offensive lineman to ever play the game. No one has ever had that combination of size, speed and power, where at times he could dominate or neutralize two defensive players at one time.

What I see is a Ravens team that still is trying to gear up for another playoff run because of all the veterans.

The Ravens will be better than last season. They'll be on a mission again because they'll want to prove they lost last season because of Billick, not because of the players. They need Ogden.

But Ogden doesn't need football. He has a gorgeous house in Las Vegas and has saved millions of dollars. He really doesn't want any fanfare about retiring. Actually, it bothers him.

But Ogden always has been a perfectionist. He is a technician on the field, from his stance to his pass set. And when it's not picture-perfect, it bugs him. That's why I don't think he'll come back. His desire for personal excellence exceeds his desire to win.

That's why he should retire. He set a playing level so high that he can't measure up to it anymore.