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Mason serious about returning punts

Derrick Mason said he hasn’t returned punts with any regularity since 2004, but that hasn’t stopped the wide receiver from seriously offering his services to the Ravens coaching staff.

"I've done it before, and I was very good at it," said Mason, who went to his first Pro Bowl in 2000 as a member of the Tennessee Titans after leading the NFL in punt return yards (662) and ranking second in average yards on kick returns (27.0). "Not taking away from the guys that are doing it, but if you feel you can help the team in some aspect, you mention it to a coach. And if I need to go out there – and I'm not saying that I'm going to break a long one each time – and you get block the guys on the outside, I can get some yards. I'm going to hold onto the ball and hopefully make good decisions on the back end."

To be fair, Mason said he wasn't sure how serious the coaches were considering using him, and coach John Harbaugh ruled out Mason as a punt returner for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins.

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"I would say it's an option," Harbaugh said. "Like I said when I said it the other day, he's in my ear to do it, and that tells you what he's all about. He's probably not the first guy I'm going to think about putting out there, but if it turns out that he's the best choice, we're willing to do it. I'm not anticipating him for Miami, but the fact that he wants to do it, I think, is kind of neat. Says a lot about Derrick."

Tom Zbikowski, the team's primary punt returner, is averaging 6.3 yards on 16 attempts, but he sat out the team's 37-34 overtime win against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 24 and walked around Monday in a boot to protect his bruised right heel.

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Chris Carr has averaged 2.7 yards on three returns, while Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb have each registered a fair catch.

Mason, who underwent surgery a week ago to repair the broken pinky finger on his right hand, disagreed that returning punts could be dangerous to his status as a starter.

"I think I put myself more at risk going out there as a wide receiver than I do as a punt returner," he said. "When I'm out there, I have full confidence in the guys who are blocking for me. As a returner, if you don't have confidence in the guys who are blocking for you, you're not going to be a good returner. If I do get the oppportunity to go out there – and I'm not saying that I'm going to score a touchdown – I'm going to catch the ball and try to get as many yards as I can."

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