After 15 seasons in the NFL, Derrick Mason is set to go into retirement as a Raven.
Mason, the franchise's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, is expected to announce his retirement at a news conference today at the Ravens' practice facility, the Under Armour Performance Center, in Owings Mills. General Manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh will take part in the festivities.
Mason told The Baltimore Sun last month about his desire to retire with the Ravens, the team he played for from 2005 to 2010. A Ravens spokesman said the interest was mutual, but first the 38-year-old had to file his retirement papers with the league.
This morning Mason tweeted: "I can walk away knowing I used every inch of the wick in the candle now the fire is out!!! I'm truly happy with my decision."
Mason was drafted by the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and spent his first eight seasons with the Oilers/Titans franchise, but the relationships he forged and memories he made as the go-to wide receiver during six seasons in Baltimore inspired Mason to reach out to the Ravens this spring.
"I would love to retire as a Raven," Mason, who still lives in the Nashville area, told The Sun. "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 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."
An elite route-runner with reliable hands, Mason established franchise records with 471 catches and 5,777 receiving yards. His 29 receiving touchdowns are second only to tight end Todd Heap.
Mason never missed a game as a member of the Ravens. His durability and toughness struck a chord with teammates, especially after he played through a separated shoulder in a late-season game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. The Ravens were battling for a playoff spot and Mason could barely lift his left arm, but he hauled in a touchdown pass in a 33-24 victory.
In 15 NFL seasons, Mason caught 943 passes for 12,061 yards and 66 touchdowns. His 943 career receptions rank 11th all-time. He also played in Super Bowl XXXIV as a member of the Titans.
Mason had at least 1,000 receiving yards in four of his six seasons in Baltimore, but he was surprisingly released after the NFL lockout ended last summer.
He signed with the New York Jets, was traded to the Houston Texans in October, and released by the Texans in December. He was upset when the Ravens released him, but he now says he understands and respects their decision.
"As my years started to add up, it felt like I wasn't going to go anywhere else," Mason told The Sun in May. "I was a little bit disappointed. I kind of took it personal, and I shouldn't have."
Last season's humbling odyssey signaled to him that it was time to walk away from the game he loves. But first, on his way out of football, Mason will run a comeback route to Baltimore so he can be a Raven one last time.