An overflow crowd of teammates, coaches and reporters jammed into the Ravens' auditorium yesterday to bid farewell to Jonathan Ogden.
But the storied All-Pro offensive tackle wasn't ready to say goodbye completely.
In a touching and lighthearted half-hour news conference, Ogden officially retired but made it clear he will remain to help the team, as well as stay committed to the city where he played his 12 seasons.
"I'm a Baltimore Raven for life," Ogden said with a smile. "There's no doubt about that."
Dressed in a black-and-silver, pinstriped, button-down shirt and matching slacks and sporting a new haircut, Ogden seemed comfortable with his decision.
At times, the gathering resembled a reunion more than a retirement. Ogden was never close to shedding tears, and he frequently cracked up the crowd - which included his family in the front row and at least 15 former teammates - with old stories.
The franchise's first pick in 1996, Ogden talked about his shock when he was given a plain black-and-white cap on draft day because the fledgling Ravens didn't have a logo. "I'm like, what is this?" Ogden deadpanned.
He ribbed former teammate Harry Swayne about how he got away with a blocking penalty in the AFC championship game on Shannon Sharpe's 96-yard touchdown catch.
And he admittedly embellished the time when he caught Deion Sanders from behind 80 yards downfield in the Pro Bowl.
Yet amid the laughter, Ogden acknowledged how much he labored over the decision to leave football. "It's mixed emotions, honestly," Ogden said. "There's a huge part of me that is going to miss playing football. But at the same time, I realize that it is time."
The Ravens thought they were close to having Ogden, 33, back a few months ago.
He visited team headquarters in mid-March, sitting in on an offensive meeting with coordinator Cam Cameron and watching a practice.
"There was a glimmer in his eye," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think there was a feeling ... that with these changes, J.O. might come back and finish this journey with us. But that euphoria left when he left here."
About a month ago, Newsome called Ogden and asked him for a final decision.
Ogden paused and said, "I'm done."
His hyperextended toe had failed to fully heal, which meant Ogden wouldn't be able to play at his Pro Bowl level.
He wanted to hold off an official announcement until after the Ravens' final full-team minicamp to avoid being a distraction.
"Could I still have gone out there and played? Yes, and I probably could have done an adequate job," Ogden said. "But, in my mind, I wouldn't be helping the team as much as I needed to."
A perfectionist throughout his career, Ogden didn't want to tarnish his reputation with a less-than-stellar season.
"[Offensive linemen] don't have stats like every other position," Ogden said. "So, it's more about how much people respect you."
Ogden will go down as one of the more respected linemen in NFL history.
Coaches such as Brian Billick, Bill Cowher and Mike Nolan recently talked about Ogden's being a lock for the Hall of Fame. And pass rushers such as Jason Taylor, Simeon Rice, Joey Porter and Aaron Schobel have called Ogden one of the best to play the game.
"Not only did he redefine the position of left tackle in the NFL; he also set the standard for what it means to be a Baltimore Raven," Ravens president Dick Cass said. "Years from now, when Baltimore is talking about its greatest sports legends, Jonathan will be part of that discussion along with Cal Ripken, Johnny Unitas and Ray Lewis."
Ravens defensive lineman Trevor Pryce remembered his only game against Ogden, playing him as a member of the Denver Broncos in 2005 just one season removed from having an injured back.
Said Pryce: "I tried to throw him off. ... In the middle of the play, he said: 'You can't do that. Your back's hurt. Are you all right?'"
Pryce then added, "In my 11 years of playing, he is by far the best I've ever played against."
Newsome agreed with that assessment.
"I've had the opportunity to be in this league for over 30 years, but in my opinion, there is not a player that played his position as well as Jonathan Ogden played his position," Newsome said.
Ogden has usually shied away from talking about his place in history.
When it comes to players who defined the position of offensive tackle, Ogden thinks of Anthony Munoz instead of himself.
"If people want to say I was the next one to redefine it, I'm very happy with that," he said. "I'm not going to be too modest anymore. I'm retiring."
Ogden made it clear his retirement is final and a comeback "won't be happening."
He wants to hang around the team and help offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry. He will stay involved in his charity foundation in Baltimore.
"I know I gave everything I had in 12 years," Ogden said. "I left it out there every Sunday on the field for this town, myself and this organization. I can look back and say I have no regrets. I'm at peace with that."
OGDEN AT A GLANCE
Full name: Jonathan Phillip Ogden
Child: Son Jayden, 3
Parents: Shirrel (deceased) and Cassandra
Education: St. Albans School in Washington; UCLA
Hobbies: Playing with Jayden, golfing, reading, eating
Career possibilities: Coaching football, promoting boxing, joining golf's Champions Tour
Charitable works: The Jonathan Ogden Foundation, which helps schoolchildren in Baltimore and Las Vegas; the Ogden Brothers Welcome Home Foundation, a nonprofit that helps Baltimore ex-convicts adjust to life on the outside.
KEY DATES IN OGDEN'S CAREER
April 20, 1996 -- Instead of addressing the need for a running back, the Ravens draft Ogden over troubled Lawrence Phillips. Ogden, the first pick in franchise history, wears a black-and-white Ravens cap because the team didn't have official colors or a logo. "When Simeon [Rice] got picked third by Arizona, I started to think, 'Maybe Baltimore wouldn't be that bad a place to play after all,'" Ogden says.
Sept. 1, 1996 -- Because the Ravens start Tony Jones at left tackle, Ogden plays his entire rookie season at left guard. In his first NFL game, Ogden battles the Oakland Raiders' 300-pounders Chester McGlockton, Nolan Harrison and Jerry Ball. "I probably didn't perform as high as my expectations," Ogden says. "But I'll take a win without giving up any sacks."
Aug. 31, 1997 -- After the Ravens trade Jones, Ogden returns to his natural position at left tackle. He makes his first start there in a 28-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Dec. 11, 1997 -- Ogden receives his first Pro Bowl invitation after his first season as a starting left tackle.
Oct. 3, 1999 -- In one of the scariest moments of his career, Ogden is carried off on a stretcher in the final minute of the first half. He suffers a cervical strain and severe neck burner diving for a fumble and leaves the Georgia Dome wearing a neck brace, but he starts the next game.
Aug. 28, 2000 -- The Ravens make Ogden the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, signing him to a six-year, $44 million extension that includes a $12 million signing bonus.
Jan. 28, 2001 -- Ogden wins the only Super Bowl of his career, as the Ravens rout the New York Giants, 34-7.
Sept. 14, 2003 -- Ogden helps pave the way for Jamal Lewis to rush for a then-NFL record 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns. "That really was kind of like a college day," Ogden says. "Just to be part of it was spectacular. This is as close as we linemen get to the record books."
Dec. 17, 2006 -- During the Ravens' stretch run for the AFC North title, Ogden hyperextends the big toe on his left foot in a 27-17 win against the Browns. He would miss the final two regular-season games.
Jan. 13, 2007 -- Even though Ogden isn't at full strength because of turf toe, he limits Freeney to no tackles and one quarterback hit in a 15-6 playoff loss to Indianapolis. It is vindication for Ogden, who has had trouble with Freeney.
Jan. 14, 2007 -- Ogden reveals for the first time there is a "possibility" he might retire. He hobbles out of the locker room because of the toe injury.
April 26, 2007 -- Ogden decides to return for another season. He refuses to say whether the 2007 season would be his last.
Sept. 10, 2007 -- Ogden aggravates the toe injury early in the second quarter of the season-opening loss in Cincinnati. He is inactive for the next five games.
Dec. 28, 2007 -- Ogden is elected to his 11th and final Pro Bowl. "Even though I was hurt ... I gave it everything I had," Ogden says. "Even after all these years, the validation this honor carries means a lot to me."
Dec. 30, 2007 -- In his final game - a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers - Ogden brings his wife and his 2-year-old son, Jayden, onto the field, where he has pictures taken with them.
June 11, 2008 -- Ogden tells the Ravens he is retiring after 12 seasons.
Compiled by Jamison Hensley