As I buzz around town and talk with people about the Ravens – at this point, what else IS there to talk about in Baltimore sports? – I hear this question a lot: “What on earth has gotten into Derrick Mason?”
I’ve talked about it on the show recently, even before last Sunday’s episode where he garnered a delay-of-game penalty for tossing the ball up in the air in disgust after Joe Flacco short-hopped one his way.
In fact, I mentioned Derrick in THIS blog last Monday after that scruffy performance from the Ravens in Cincinnati. The theme of that piece was, basically, “how do you keep them all happy?”
Eight days later, that question still looms for Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh as it relates to Derrick Mason.
How do you keep #85 happy?
Answer: Try really hard.
For my money, even though the team hasn’t gone to a Super Bowl with Mason in purple, I think he’s the best veteran acquisition in franchise history. Yes, better than Michael McCrary. Better than Rod Woodson. And better than Trevor Pryce.
And before you say, “Anquan Boldin was a better acquisition than Derrick Mason”, let’s allow for Boldin’s career in Baltimore to extend past three games before making such a generous claim.
All Derrick Mason has done since he’s been in Baltimore is catch the football and “Play Like A Raven”. Trivia question: In six seasons (plus three games this year) as a Raven, how many games has Mason missed?
If you answered “none”, give yourself a prize.
The man has been the team’s go-to weapon as far as receivers go since arriving in 2005.
But the times, they are a changin’.
Anquan Boldin is the new big man on campus now. As he should be.
And from my viewpoint, Derrick is having a difficult time processing the turn of events. It’s not like his recent mercurial behavior is that out-of-character. While he’s been far from the sh*t-stirrer that Chad Johnson has been in Cincy, Mason has at times thrust himself into the limelight in an effort to be more of the story than he needed to be. There have been other occasions in Baltimore where he stopped talking to the media. In 2009, he actually retired for about 11 hours before realizing that the franchise was somehow going to carry on without him and returned in time for training camp.
So this latest flare-up where he 86’d the media (again) and pitched a fit on Sunday isn’t all that unfamiliar.
But it still begs the question: Why? Why now? Why, in the November of your career, Derrick, would you start the going-out process by being a bad soldier?
I guess I know why.
He’s not sure how to deal with it all.
And I guess I can’t blame him for that.
It’s never easy for a player – particularly an ultra-successful one like Mason – to get a sniff of “The End is Near”. It’s one thing when you sit down and make a decision, like he did in 2009, and go out on your own terms. It’s another when the team brings in three new receivers in the off-season and basically puts you on notice that things are about to change in your department.
Of all the players I’d feel happiest for, personally, if the Ravens won a Super Bowl this year, it would be Derrick Mason. He’s been a great asset to the franchise, a wonderful contributor to our community in Baltimore, and a model citizen off the field.
He deserves to go out on top, but part of the balancing act he now faces is to go out the right way.
Three games in, Derrick’s not writing a very pleasing final chapter.
I know it’s not easy, but he’d enjoy the ending a lot better if he’d continue the tradition he’s followed and “Play Like A Raven”.