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Ogden says he'll be back

The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens now know they don't need to draft a starting offensive tackle this weekend.

Jonathan Ogden told The Sun last night that he plans to return to the Ravens for his 12th season.

Ogden, the 10-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle, had been contemplating retirement since the Ravens' playoff loss to Indianapolis.

Although team officials always remained optimistic about Ogden coming back, he made it official two days before the NFL draft, boosting the Ravens' chances of repeating as AFC North champions and returning to the playoffs.

"I am coming back," Ogden told The Sun. "I won't say that it's 100 percent because I don't want to close any door. But unless something drastic happens to make me change my mind - and I don't foresee that happening - then I'm playing one more year."

Ogden, 32, however, said he hasn't determined whether this season will be his last.

"I don't know," he said. "I'll probably have to go through this again at the end of next season. I'm not one of those players who want a farewell tour or something like that. As long as I enjoy playing and am willing to prepare, then I'll keep playing."

The return of Ogden continues an uplifting month for the Ravens.

A few weeks ago, the Ravens signed Rex Ryan to a two-year contract that made him one of the highest-paid defensive coordinators in the NFL. On Wednesday, they agreed on a four-year extension with nose tackle Kelly Gregg.

Now, the Ravens learned they will get back one of the best offensive linemen in the league and can enter the draft with every starting position filled, which will allow them to take the best player available.

Ogden said he didn't inform general manager Ozzie Newsome of his decision last night because he knew the Ravens would be focusing on the draft.

"I'm very happy," Newsome said when told of Ogden's return. "[Ogden] played extremely well last year. He still has a thirst for another championship as well as I and the rest of his teammates. I'm happy he is going to continue his career as a Raven."

Ogden's teammates were equally thrilled by the news.

"It's always a boost in morale to have a great player come back," guard Chris Chester said. "This gives us a little bit more impetus to do well this season."

Ogden is widely considered a future Hall of Fame lineman after being one of the most dominating blockers of his generation.

But last season was one of the toughest of Ogden's career, starting with the death of his father at the beginning of training camp.

Then, the end of the season was marred when he injured the big toe on his left foot, which sidelined him for the final two games of the regular season.

Ogden said he didn't anguish over the decision.

"There was some pressure during the first month of the offseason," Ogden said. "My toe was still hurting, and it still isn't 100 percent. I still haven't gotten over that last loss [to the Colts]. But once the toe started feeling better and I started feeling better about our season, the decision became easier to make."

Ogden has been a cornerstone of the franchise since being the team's first draft pick. The Ravens selected Ogden with the fourth overall pick in the 1996 draft.

He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 11 seasons, although there was talk that his play had slipped the past couple of seasons. Ogden answered critics with one of his best years, shutting down such elite pass rushers as Dwight Freeney, Simeon Rice and Shawne Merriman last season.

Still, in making his decision on whether to return, Ogden talked to Anthony Munoz and Darrell Green, two retired players who combined for 32 seasons in the NFL.

"I just needed to make sure I wanted to go out there and play, but also make sure I was ready to prepare myself for another season," Ogden said. "There was nothing really complicated about it, but something I had to find within myself."

Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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