The ceremonial retirement of Derrick Mason as a member of the Ravens on Monday was a chance to remember all of the positives that he brought to the team, and now with some time having passed a chance to put to bed any lingering animosity that fans may have developed toward him as his career was winding down, both here in Baltimore and elsewhere, we celebrate him. It also seems to assure us that some day soon we’ll be seeing his name raised to the “Ring of Honor” in a sappy and nostalgic ceremony. Given the inconsistent criteria of the current “Ring of Honor” inductees, it’s probably a good time to consider a few cases.
Although the criteria are, as mentioned, inconsistent I should mention that there’s one rule in weighing a player’s “ROH” merits as far as this discussion is concerned. That rule is simply that you can’t invoke Earnest Byner as a benchmark. Byner’s place in the ROH is charitable at best and based on things beyond his achievements on field as a Raven. I don’t begrudge his admission, but he can’t be used as a measuring stick for the merits of others.
It honestly wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if Mason had retired as a member of the Tennessee Titans, and we could certainly discuss the possibility that the absence of Jeff Fisher from that organization is as much a part of Mason’s decision to retire as a Raven as anything. For 6 seasons Mason was a Raven, through and through, but in the minds of fans, always a former Titan too. Old rivalries die hard, and the additions of Mason and Samari Rolle and Steve McNair and Lorenzo Neal may have helped to bridge that healing gap over time too. But some will always likely remember Mason as a Titan.
For all of his statistical achievements in Baltimore, what I’ll remember most about Mason coming here was his coming here. Apparently given the choice between the Ravens and Patriots, Mason went with the underdog organization and his leap of faith was rewarded (albeit not with a Super Bowl title). His was a misguided faith in Kyle Boller as well, and for that we can all be thankful.
Mason topped 1000 yards 4 times as a Raven, played on 4 playoff teams and was seemingly always the guy most on the same page with his quarterbacks. He scored 29 TDs as a Raven, or 6 more than Randy Moss in 2007 with the aforementioned Patriots.
His tendency to talk may have gotten him in some hot water with fans during his tenure here, but that’s all water under the bridge and truly of little consequence now. Statistically it’s a bit of a reach, but given the offensive limitations of the team during his tenure here, those stats should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Let there be little doubt, Mason will be in the ROH.
That said, the accomplishments of both Jamal Lewis and Chris McAlister would seem to trump Mason and just about any other former Ravens who might be lying in wait, in addition to overshadowing most of the current member of the ROH. It would have been nice to see either or both of them afforded the chance to let bygones be bygones and retire as well. In McAlister’s case, because of the nature of his departure it always seemed unlikely, but in Lewis’ case not so. Not so, that is until Lewis signed on as a plaintiff in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL.
Current member of the ROH, who played for the Ravens, are Byner, Michael McCrary, Peter Boulware, Jon Ogden and Matt Stover with Mason likely to follow. Todd Heap will likely be a member when he finally hangs up his cleats (hopefully as a Raven too) and Kelly Gregg should make for an interesting debate. Jarret Johnson could have a case I suppose too.
And what about Jermaine Lewis? Is he also a guy whose bad publicity was too much for the Ravens to ignore, or just an overlooked omission or a guy on the wrong side of the fringe? Given some of the stories of Lewis’ life lately, he could probably use a little positivity and recognition and Ravens fans would likely be happy to pay it to him.
There’s little doubt that Mason will be honored in the ROH as he should. The question though is should he be the next?