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Open letter to Derrick Mason:

Retirement isn't necessarily a bad idea, unless you invested with Bernie Madoff or those Stanford Financial guys, but it's a pretty big decision with far-reaching implications. That's why everyone was so surprised when - and how - the news broke Monday that you had decided to end your stellar NFL career.

The reasoning isn't hard to follow, of course. It's time to spend more time at home. You've played a long time. You've accomplished a great deal. Your body has taken a beating. You've made a great living. You've had a lot of fun. You would be going out on your own terms.

Except you wouldn't.

No matter how you slice it, this is the absolute wrong time and wrong way to make this important decision.

Don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean it's the wrong decision. There's something to be said for walking away while you can still walk without wincing, and there's nothing wrong with going out near the top of your game. There's no doubt that you could still be one of the most productive receivers in the NFL this season, and it's OK to leave those 1,000 receiving yards for somebody else if that's really what you want to do.

You certainly don't owe anybody anything. The Ravens will figure something out, though they would rather figure on you being Joe Flacco's go-to guy again this September.

But you do owe yourself something - and it's what Brett Favre complained he didn't get when he announced his retirement after his final season with the Green Bay Packers: time to think this all the way through.

Maybe that's why you've imposed two weeks of newspaper, TV and radio silence after making a few comments Monday to a Web site that shares the address of your agent, and to ESPN News.

Still, the announcement sounded so final, and Monday was not the day for anyone in your situation to make that kind of decision. Everybody knows what you've been through over the past 10 days, losing a good friend and trying to be there for Steve McNair's family. Everybody also knows that you've been disappointed in the progress of contract talks with the Ravens.

I'm not cynical enough to think this is just a leverage play. I heard what you said at the McNair service and know you meant every word. I read the statement you made through in which you insisted that the decision to retire had nothing to do with your contract situation, but I also understand how people would wonder after you chose to make the announcement on a Web site instead of through the team.

Perhaps it's presumptuous to try to read your mind, but you wouldn't be human if your outlook on life and family wasn't affected by such a shocking loss. Put that on top of the painful injury you battled through last season and the contract friction with the Ravens' front office, and the right course probably seemed clear Monday.

It might not seem so clear on the day training camp opens - which coincides pretty closely with the end of your self- imposed media embargo - or the first day of the regular season. The sadness isn't going to go away, but the desire to play the game a little longer might come back.

I'm guessing that whatever your ultimate decision is, Ravens fans will respect it. They'll miss you, of course, if this decision is final, but they know what you did for the franchise and how much you meant to Flacco during his rookie year. Hopefully, they'll get an opportunity to say a proper goodbye.

Whatever you decide to do, just don't do it until you give yourself a chance to grieve for your friend and figure out where football fits into your life.

Follow your heart. Just wait until it stops aching.

Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at

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