For six seasons, Derrick Mason left cornerbacks slipping on the turf with his signature comeback routes — cuts that were sharp, surgical, and effective. Now, as he sprints into life after football, Mason may soon swerve back to Baltimore to retire as a member of the Ravens.
Mason, the franchise’s all-time leader in career receptions and receiving yards, told The Baltimore Sun on Friday he hopes to retire as a Raven. The 38-year-old has spoken with team officials about his desire, and it will likely happen once he officially retires.
“I would love to retire as a Raven,” he said. “Tennessee gave me an opportunity — and I will always be grateful for that — to actually live out one of my dreams and play this game and play at a high level. But once I got to Baltimore, that’s when I really started to grow as a player, that’s when I really started to understand what this game was about, why I was I was playing it. That’s why I want to retire as a Raven, because I had some great, great memories there and I met a lot of great people. That’s my football family.”
Mason believes there is a “very high” possibility it will happen, but he wants to leave the decision up to the team. Kevin Byrne, senior vice president of public and community relations, said the Ravens are also interested in the possibility of Mason retiring a Raven.
“We’re so flattered that Derrick wants to retire as a Raven, especially since he spent a great part of his career in Tennessee,” Byrne told The Sun on Friday. “It’s very cool.”
But before it can happen, Mason has to send his retirement paperwork to the NFL, which he plans to do soon. Once he does, the team can sign Mason to a one-day contract so he can retire a Raven.
Mason played for the Ravens from 2005 to 2010, never missing a game. He set franchise records with 471 catches and 5,777 receiving yards. His 29 receiving touchdowns are second only to tight end Todd Heap, who also was released by the Ravens last offseason.
The Detroit native said he was upset when the Ravens released him, but he said his final season in the NFL turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Mason’s final season started with the New York Jets, but he was traded to the Houston Texans and then released.
“It was disappointing because I felt in my heart that after signing with the Ravens in 2005, that that would be my last stop,” Mason said. “As my years started to add up, it felt like I wasn’t going to go anywhere else. Right after the lockout ended and they released me, I was a little bit disappointed. I kind of took it personal, and I shouldn’t have.
“But I think once you’re in a situation for a long period of time and you give it all that you’ve got and you play the way that I played — I played injured, hurt and never missed a game in six years — you take it personal and I never should have done that because I understood what Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] and the organization was thinking.”
Mason signed with the Jets to prove to himself and everyone else that he could still play at a high level. Their season started well and Mason felt the Jets were a team that could go on another deep playoff run, but “it just didn’t work out that way.” After he was dealt to the Texans, Mason began to prepare himself mentally and emotionally for retirement.
“I had to sit down and humble myself and really prepare for life after football. Honestly, looking back on it now, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said. “The Ravens are always going to contend for a Super Bowl, and it would have been very difficult for me to leave the game because I would have thought that window was still open and I would want to be part of that. I would want to be part of that Ravens team that actually won the Super Bowl. …But I think it happened the way it was supposed to.”
One of the finest route-runners of his time, Mason caught 943 passes for 12,061 yards and 66 touchdowns in 15 seasons. His 943 career receptions rank 11th all-time. His finest season in Baltimore was 2007, when he made a career-high 103 catches for 1,087 yards and five touchdowns. He reached 1,000 receiving yards in four of his six seasons here.
Before signing with the Ravens in 2005, he spent his first eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Tennessee Oilers) and played for the Titans in their Super Bowl XXXIV loss to the St. Louis Rams. The Oilers drafted him 98th overall in 1997.
His family still lives in the Nashville area, but Mason calls Baltimore his second home. He described himself as a full-time father and is a part owner of Swiftwick, a Tennessee-based athletic apparel company that specializes in compression socks for athletes. But the free-speaking wideout eventually wants to break into broadcasting, preferably TV work.
“You know, I think I have the look for television,” Mason said with a laugh.
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