Tag Archive | "derrick"

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It needs to be said: Good riddance, Derrick Mason!

Posted on 08 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Over the past two weeks I’ve read and heard and watched a myriad of different reactions to the swath of cuts the Baltimore Ravens have made to veteran players and unlike the overwhelming majority of the fan base here, I understand the salary cap and how it works.

(If you have any questions, feel free to forward them along: nasty@wnst.net. That’s why WNST.net exists – to educate you and answer your questions about Baltimore sports.)

Bottom line: the Ravens played about $14 million over the cap last year in a “wild, wild west” uncapped NFL season. In the new post-lockout 2011 season, everyone will need to align franchise expenditures with the reality of the league. For the Ravens, that means playing with less veteran (re: well-paid) talent.

This brings us to wide receiver Derrick Mason, who has somehow at 37 years of age  managed to stir up the fans of Baltimore using his Twitter account and his ever-present voice to make a case for himself as a returning veteran to the Ravens.

He was texting with John Harbaugh. He was talking about other opportunities and greener pastures. He was “shocked” by the Ravens’ cut, which had almost happened two other times over the last two years.

Here’s the truth: the Ravens didn’t want Derrick Mason anymore. And his “pick” of the New York Jets and all of the bluster that Rex Ryan blew around at the press conference about Mason electing to take “less money to play in New York” was just typical Ryanspeak.

Fact: Rex Ryan hates the Ravens more than any NFL team. He barely even speaks to me anymore because he knows I’m a Ravens fan. He stews about not getting the head coaching job every time he looks at me.

Fact: Derrick Mason wasn’t welcomed in Baltimore any more. The Ravens don’t have any cap room and felt that overspending on the clearly devalued stock of an almost-40 wide receiver wasn’t good business for them.

This was a good marriage for Mason and Ryan. It fits both of their needs to get even with the Ravens and to take the “Play Like A Jet” braggadocio to The Big Apple and potentially make another run at a Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and the parting shot? Mason and Ryan both let it be known that they believe they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than the Ravens do.

Fair enough.

And when these teams lock horns here in Baltimore eight weeks, it’s going to look like the NFL’s newest Holy War and if I could wave my magic wand and have it all work out right the Ravens would host the AFC Championship Game and play the mighty titans of New York for all the marbles here in late January.

Baltimore vs. New York? As long as it’s not baseball, I really like our chances!

And because I’ve said this before when Derrick Mason was wearing purple every week, I’ll say it again out of fairness and full disclosure. In my 16 years of chasing the Ravens all across the continent and working every locker room of every game, Mason was one of my least favorite Ravens.

It’s almost blasphemous because for most he was a media dream. He would always set up in front of his locker and welcome the lights and the cameras and the questions and would always fire off long, winding diatribes about his feelings and his insights filling notebooks and video storage devices. And I’m all for a loquacious athlete. It’s good for business all the way around.

Except in Mason’s case, I always thought it was personal and it was overkill. And he was always speaking down to the media, which in my opinion is speaking down to the fans.

Look there’s no getting around it, Derrick Mason was a helluva football player – a classic overachiever in every sense of the word and my respect for his abilities as an athlete is unquestioned. And I’m pretty sure he’s a good family man and an all-around decent human being. He did charitable things here and in Nashville and I know he really wanted to win.

But as a guy who plays on a team with 53 other guys?

You can have a 37-year old Derrick Mason, New York. He’s perfect for you!

He’s all about himself.

Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve talked to enough of his teammates and coaches over the years to know how they feel about him. Helluva player, but he’s gonna bitch loudly and unrepentantly about not getting the ball – win or lose. Many would say he’s a “typical me-first wide receiver” and that’s fine, too.

Last I checked that class full of brats — Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson — all have one thing in common: nude ring fingers!

I saw Mason stew after victories – many times – because he wasn’t the biggest part of the offense that day. I’ve seen him pop off and say all sorts of things that had a very “anti-team” edge to them as I heard them. And I also remember his retirement proceedings on his agent’s website two summers ago.

Apparently, so did Joe Flacco, who amidst the Ravens’ mystery “negotiations” with Mason threw him under the bus by calling him a diva in front of the world 48 hours ago.

I think that says it all.

Sure, there will be days this fall when Flacco would’ve loved having him on 3rd and 6, but the other six days and 21 hours of the week sure sounded like an issue for some folks at The Bellagio in Owings Mills.

And I get it.

But all of this green bluster coming out of New York is just that – another chance for Mason and Ryan to take a few verbal jabs at the Ravens and Baltimore, where they weren’t welcomed anymore.

We’ll see them on Sunday night, Oct. 2 here in Baltimore.

To be continued…

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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Live From Westminster: Mason dislocates finger, causes a scare

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Live From Westminster: Mason dislocates finger, causes a scare

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:06 p.m. — With Harbaugh not revealing any plans on which injured players will suit up and play on Thursday, here are some thoughts on the players in question.

Demetrius Williams will play if he feels good during the team walk-through tomorrow.  He’s pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp.

Todd Heap’s lower back has tightened up over the last couple days, but there’s still a chance he’ll play.  Heap had not missed a practice before sitting out yesterday.

Jared Gaither is still bothered by the shoulder/neck issue, but he took part in plenty of live reps yesterday morning.  He wants to play on Thursday, but it’ll depend how he feels during the walk-through.

Derrick Mason suffered a dislocated finger this morning during practice.  I’d be surprised if he plays, and if he does, I’ll predict he’s nothing more than a decoy.

Ben Grubbs continues to battle an ankle issue dating back to the offseason.  He participated in the early portion of practice today, but David Hale took his place at left guard.  He’s questionable.

Marshal Yanda was given the day off today and is far ahead of schedule compared to where most people predicted he’d be at this point.  However, the team has emphasized they want to take it slow with Yanda.  He’s questionable.

Trevor Pryce has a foot issue, and his status is unknown.  It did not appear serious, so we’ll see how the veteran defensive end is feeling by Thursday.

Terrell Suggs (heel) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play and have not practiced since Aug. 2.  Clayton has been on the field the past two days doing some light conditioning work.

Honestly, the only injury to really be concerned with at this point is Clayton’s.  As much as Ravens fans want to beat Washington, a preseason game on Aug. 13—even against the hated Redskins—is meaningless in terms of wins and losses.  The goal is to get these players ready for Sept. 13.

I suspect that most of these players would be playing if it were the regular season.

4:00 p.m. — In preparation for their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, the Ravens will hold their walk-through on Wednesday.  The walk-through is closed to both the media and general public.

3:30 p.m. — Chris Carr is still listed as the No. 1 punt and kick returner and looks very fluid while returning kicks.  After watching him work in Westminster, it’s easy to see how he became the Oakland Raiders’ all-time leader in kickoff returns.

3:27 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and the focus of the afternoon was the punt and kick return teams.

Sam Koch was booming his punts and looks to be in mid-season form.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick for placing punts inside the 20-yard line.

Steve Hauschka did an outstanding job kicking off, consistently kicking the ball inside the 5 with great hang time.

Rookie Paul Kruger received praise from John Harbaugh on several occasions.  It looks like the second-round pick will be a major part of the special teams units this season.

1:56 p.m. — As expected, Derrick Mason’s injury appears to be a dislocation and not a broken finger. He’s probably doubtful for Thursday night at this point and it looked painful when it happened.

1:46 p.m. — Today was Baltimore football alumni day at training camp, and we saw a number of Baltimore Colts including Art Donovan, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, and John Mackey.

Among the former Ravens was wide receiver Michael Jackson (taking us back to the early days of the purple!) and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.  We had a chance to chat with J.O. for a short time, and you can check that out in the WNST.net audio vault.

Ogden spent some time catching up with his former teammates on the sideline during practice.
Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

1:38 p.m. — It’s been a very quiet camp for Ray Lewis, but the 34-year-old linebacker has been very active on the field, talking to the offense and competing as he always does.  Lewis came into camp trimmer this season, wanting to maintain his speed as he begins his 14th season with the Ravens (hard to believe, isn’t it?).

Here’s a shot of No. 52 working on his hands at the jugs machine.
Ray Lewis

12:51 p.m. — Graham Gano appeared to have a much stronger leg this morning and kicked with much more confidence.  Unofficially (there were no officials underneath the goalpost, so it was difficult to confirm a few), Gano hit field goals from 35, 43, 47, and 51 yards.  He did appear to miss one from 38 yards, but it was very close—again, no official underneath the goalpost.

Steve Hauschka appeared to have the morning off after taking most of the reps yesterday.

12:48 p.m. — With the finger injury to Derrick Mason, there’s a good chance Harper will be starting on Thursday night, and the young receiver made another long catch this morning.  Troy Smith lofted a 30-yard pass to Harper who beat Walker on the play.

12:31 p.m. — Despite all of the injury updates, there were some highlights this morning I wanted to share.  Domonique Foxworth had an impressive pass breakup in the end zone as Mason tried to make the catch.  Foxworth has been very steady in the secondary, and I am eager to see him play on Thursday night.

Chris Carr picked off Troy Smith this morning during passing drills.  Carr continues to work as the Ravens’ nickleback in passing situations.  He’s only 5-10, but he tends to play with a pretty physical style—a good thing as long as it’s within the rules of the game.

Yamon Figurs beat Evan Oglesby for a long completion from John Beck.  In order for Figurs to make the 53-man roster, he will need to show the same playmaking ability in the four preseason games.

Figurs also got into an altercation with Frank Walker on the sideline during 11-on-11 drills.  Figurs hauled in the pass and was then thrown to the ground by Walker.  The two players took swings at one another, but the fight was quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:29 p.m. — Ed Reed once again tossed away the red jersey this morning and was sporting the white one like his fellow defensive mates, but don’t read too much into it.  When asked about it, Harbaugh said Reed wears the white during non-contact days, so quarterback Joe Flacco cannot pick him out in the secondary as easily as he does in the red shirt.

Harbaugh would not reveal any new information on Reed’s status, so it’s a mystery whether he’ll play against Washington on Thursday night.

12:24 p.m. — The Ravens continue to run single-back sets with Le’Ron McClain lined up on the wing as a tight end and often going in motion.  I imagine we’ll see this look on Thursday night, especially with Heap’s uncertain status.  McClain has also shown an improved ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield so far this summer.

12:17 p.m. — Harbaugh was very tight-lipped when asked which injured players would play on Thursday night, saying the media could probably figure it out.  With that being said, I would predict we’ll see an offensive line (going left to right) of Oniel Cousins, David Hale, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Michael Oher.  Gaither had returned to practice yesterday, but it appears the shoulder/neck is still bothering him, and the team will also bring Yanda along very slowly.  Grubbs may see some reps, but I would think Hale gets most of the time with the starting unit at left guard.

Defensively, we’ll have to wait and see on Pryce’s status, but Dwan Edwards took his place on the defensive line today.  Rookie Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot in the starting lineup, but we’ll see Antwan Barnes get some time at the position.

12:15 p.m. — Despite several players missing practice this morning, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo once again practiced and took reps with the second-team defense.  He has been slowed by a toe injury since the beginning of camp and just recently began working out with the team.  While he’s still not 100 percent, he looks much better moving around on the field than he did last week.

12:11 p.m. — Ravens fans will continue to hold their collective breaths as we wait for further news on Derrick Mason.  Harbaugh did not sound too concerned, but Mason will have an x-ray taken on the finger, and I’ve heard some rumblings about it possibly being dislocated.

If Mason and Williams cannot play on Thursday, the Ravens would likely start Kelley Washington and Justin Harper at wide receiver—a scary proposition if it were the regular season.

12:00 p.m. — If Tuesday’s practice is any indication of who will be suiting up for the Ravens on Thursday night, quite a few players will be missing from the starting lineup.  Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Trevor Pryce, Todd Heap, and Demetrius Williams did not practice this morning.  Heap and Williams were dressed to practice, but they did not participate in any team drills and observed most of the practice from the sidelines.

Cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the latter portion of practice with Frank Walker taking his place in the lineup.  Washington has battled tendinitis in his knee for the last week.

Left guard Ben Grubbs practice and took reps in the early portion of practice, but David Hale took his place on the line, and Grubbs was not present at the end of practice.  It will be interesting to see if Grubbs plays on Thursday night, as he continues to deal with the same ankle issue that landed him on the PUP list at the start of training camp.

11:04 a.m. — John Harbaugh just met with the media and said that Derrick Mason will get his hand X-rayed but he didn’t seem too concerned. More to come…

10:15 a.m. — Derrick Mason just left the field with trainer Bill Tessendorf. He appears to have jammed some fingers on his right hand. More to come…

10:01 a.m. — David Hale also getting reps at left guard. Ravens are going to be careful with Ben Grubbs’ ankle.

9:53 a.m. — Yamon Figurs and Frank Walker get into a little altercation on the sideline after the catch.

9:31 a.m. — Art Donovan, Lenny Moore and some other Baltimore Colts are at camp today. Jonathan Ogden also!

9:18 a.m. — L.J. Smith is taking the first team reps. Todd Heap is dressed to practice but not doing much.

9:10 a.m. — Demetrius Williams is not doing much so far.



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Derrick Mason’s return to Ravens was never in doubt at WNST

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In what has not been a surprise to us – if you go back to Monday July 13th’s blog vault you’ll see we can confirm this — Derrick Mason will in fact play for the Ravens this season, ending his temporary “retirement” from the Ravens and the NFL.

Three weeks ago, it took us about 45 minutes after Mason announced his “retirement” via his agent’s sports website, to begin predicting that Mason would play in 2009 but somehow it’s a major “news” story today. This was in no way a huge upset/surprise/shocker for anyone using common sense and their “sniffer” for facts.

The amount of money at stake, Mason’s lack of true leverage (he would’ve had to refund money to the Ravens if he didn’t play) and the fact that he attended virtually every camp in the offseason and is in world-class shape all were clues that we would be seeing Mason in a purple sweater on Sept. 13 when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.

So, while others may take the credit for “breaking” the story today we’ve felt all along that it would be a major upset if Mason didn’t play in 2009.

Just this morning I told a friend that if it were a horse race I’d pay no more than 2-to-5 — or .40 cents — if he winds up playing. Even a bet that bad would’ve been a lousy one!

I’ve been told Mason has had some personal issues he’s had to resolve this summer, even above and beyond his situation with the tragedy of Steve McNair and his own contract-extension wishes.

In the end, this was a bit of a stare down — albeit with complications — about money and reward and desire.

No one sensible really ever expected that Mason wouldn’t play.

It’ll be good to have No. 85 back in the fold.

Here’s what baltimoreravens.com is reporting:

“Mason came to the team’s training camp hotel in Westminster, Md., to meet with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh.

He also called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti earlier today to inform him of his decision.

Mason is sending a letter to the NFL stating his intentions.

He will take a physical either later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

The Ravens anticipate that Mason will be on the field sometime Sunday, although like all Ravens, he will have to pass a running test.”

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The “Drew Bennett era” ends before it begins

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In yet another weird turnabout of July pre-camp events, wide receiver Drew Bennett who signed to become a top option for the Ravens on the edge has decided to retire instead of report to camp on Tuesday in Westminster.

Apparently, he has re-injured his knee and has reconsidered his Friday decision to sign a one-year deal with the Ravens.

“I’ve been blessed to have the opp to play in NFL for as long as I have but it’s time for me to move on to next chapter in my life,” Bennett said in a statement.

After returning home from Baltimore this weekend, a previous knee injury flared up, making me realizing that I am unable to play another NFL season. Therefore, I have decided to retire from the NFL.”

After an offseason of workouts and rehab, I thought I was ready to play again, but it became apparent over this weekend that while my mind is willing, my body will not be able to make it through another NFL season.”

So, just who are the options left on the marketplace?

Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, Marvin Harrison, Joe Horn, Plaxico Burress and Ashley Lelie.

Not exactly a buyer’s market. There’s a reason these guys don’t have jobs.

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Ploy or legit? Derrick Mason shocks everyone, “retires” on his agent’s website

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

UPDATED 9:11 p.m. — In a turn of events that can only be deemed “shocking,” Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason announced his retirement from the NFL via a website called JockLife.net at precisely 5 p.m. tonight.

This much is assured: Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens had NO idea this was happening. And privately, they aren’t as concerned about the announcement as the fan base has been over the last few hours. Honestly, it smells more like a negotiating ploy than a legitimate retirement and Mason’s agent has already responded to the initial purple response of “no response.”

But, one of two things is happening:

1. Mason’s “retirement” is 100% sincere and the death of Steve McNair has affected his desire to play…

or

2. His agent, C. Lamont Smith, who owns the website that “released” the news is angling to get Derrick Mason the final pay day that he cried out for in another story on the same website back in March. See that piece here…

“For any player to retire, he has to send a letter to the NFL stating this. Derrick Mason has not done that,” said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ senior vice president of public relations.

Before I left Limited Access on AM 1570 tonight, I had Quentin Jones, the “reporter” for Jocklife on my show and he said that Mason gave him this statement “a few days ago.” Making the story even more fishy is that fact that two sources told me that Derrick Mason was working out at the team’s Owings Mills training complex earlier today.

This is what Mason told the website, www.jocklife.net, which his agent, C. Lamont Smith, apparently owns or has a stake in with various players and business associates. The domain name is owned by Smith.

For what it’s worth, the web traffic to this “sports” website is negligible per www.alexa.com.

“I have had a tremendous career and I played for two great teams, I had fun. In my career, I have been able to do everything but win a Super Bowl. I’ve had the opportunity to play on great teams and with great players. After 12 years, I have seen it all and done it all,” Mason stated. “Right now, I am content with the decision I am making. All good things come to an end and I am ready to see what else life has to offer.”

“I have been thinking about this since season ended. Emotionally I am just not that enthused. I have not been that enthused to get up and work out…it was getting to that point. This decision has nothing to do with the contract situation; I have made enough money, more than enough money. Emotionally there are things that are more important. It’s time right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but it’s going to be really nice to see what life has in store for me. What I want people to remember about my NFL career is that I played hard…played hard in practice and the game. I tried to make everyone better and would do anything to help.”

More quotes from Mason:

“I have left them in great hands,” said Mason. “Mark Clayton is a younger version of me and Williams can be a true player, he can be in the elite class. Smith, Harper, Washington, they all are a young group that can only be better with Joe in back field.”

The story also states: “Now that Mason has finished his football career, his only plans are to spend time with his family and possibly get into the radio business. As far as what else Mason has in store for the future, he simply proclaims, ‘to be continued’.

Every person I’ve spoken with inside the Ravens organization believes that Derrick Mason will be in uniform for the Ravens on Sept. 13 when the Chiefs come to Baltimore.

But these are STRONG words and emphasize (in writing no less) that it’s “not about the contract.”

So, take this story for what it’s worth and consider the source it’s coming from over the past few hours. And consider that Mason might’ve lost his heart for the game.

Is this Derrick Mason being “not enthused”?

Or is this another July ploy by a slimy agent to grab for money with a holdout before training camp?

Time will tell. But my “sniffer” ain’t happy with this one.

If Mason files his retirement papers with the NFL, we’ll know it’s official.

Until then, it makes for great sports radio during the slowest week of the year.

And it smells more like a holdout than a retirement until further notice.

But there’s no doubt the “next man up” theory will make for some interesting web comments and calls to WNST tomorrow.

During the slowest news week of the year we poor S.O.B.’s in the media were thrown a bone.

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Is The Mason Issue Really An Issue?

Posted on 10 March 2009 by Thyrl Nelson

Is Derrick Mason’s Extension Demand Another Off-Season Obstacle For The Ravens, Or A Chance For Both Sides To Pick Up a Win?

 

How many times have players called Ozzie Newsome to the negotiating table and lost? It’s almost too many to count. Especially in the wake of Ozzie’s off-season winning spree, players, you’d think, would be wary of beckoning Newsome to the bargaining table. If the rumblings around town are correct though, it appears that Derrick Mason may be doing just that.

 

Mason may be in a better position than many who have tried their hands before him. He’s the best of a weak lot at wide receiver for the team right now, a position that they’re likely hoping to upgrade, so losing him at this point would certainly represent a big setback to that effort. Further, if the Ravens are looking to upgrade that position through the draft, with young talent, than having Mason around to mentor them seems to be the best option.

 

Personally, I’ll always regard Mason as one of my favorite Ravens. In an era where many professional athletes give as much consideration to piling on with a winner as getting paid when negotiating free agent deals, especially late in their careers, Mason shunned the Patriots for the Ravens. The money was reportedly pretty equal, and in the Patriots, Mason had the chance to join Tom Brady and the AFC’s offensive juggernaut. Instead he opted to take a chance on the Ravens and Kyle Boller and Brian Billick, and never complained when the unit was being overhauled either. For my money he’s the anti Teixeira, the anti Gary Payton.

 

At 35, Mason may be looking at the way that he’s played for the last 2 seasons as a godsend; and coming off of his storied one armed performance last season, in which he was instrumental to the development of Joe Flacco, the timing will probably never be any better for Mason to negotiate his last contract. The timing could be good for the Ravens too if they approach it the right way, and given their track record, you’d expect that they would.

 

Mason, in the final year of his contract has a $4.4 million cap number for 2009. Because of the way most NFL contracts work, that $4.4 million is mostly salary, and therefore expendable under the cap. Cutting Mason or renegotiating him, would free up his $3 million base salary for next season, leaving the team a $1.4 million cap hit. They could take that hit all at once next season, half and half over the next 2 seasons, or work it into whatever new deal they negotiate. In any regard, it represents a chance to save money against the cap.

 

If the Ravens bring Mason back through 2011 with an extension, they would certainly be able to save some money on the base salary portion of his contract, and likely his overall cap number for this season. If they decide not to negotiate with him, he probably has little choice but to play next season for another contract, and may or may not decide to exclude the Ravens from negotiations when he does become a free agent at the end. Or they may decide to simply take the savings now, not knowing exactly how healthy that shoulder will be in 2009, and recoup $3 million in cap savings this year. If they decided to do that, the line in the sand was clearly drawn by Mason in the first place, leaving the Ravens open to little PR backlash, if any.

 

The potential downsides are there in every scenario too. The Ravens could underestimate Mason’s value, allow him to walk, and have him come back to burn them. They could elect to extend him, and never get the production that they’ll have to pay for in doing so. Or they could elect to either let it ride, or even to negotiate with him, and run the risk of insulting or alienating him. That’s why Newsome makes the big bucks.

 

In an off-season ripe with drama for the team, this seems like a small bump in the road by comparison. It is though, an issue that will have to be dealt with in some capacity. If the line in the sand has truly been drawn, then electing not to deal with it is one way of dealing with it too.

 

Given the track record of the team in previous negotiations, Mason has found himself a formidable opponent in Newsome and the Ravens. Mason’s own track record would seem to dictate that the Ravens owe him a certain amount of respect if nothing else, maybe even more so than players who have been here longer or seemingly given more. From the outside it looks like there could be a chance for both sides to win. Time will tell.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

 

 

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Ray Lewis signs – Ravens do the RIGHT thing, again…

Posted on 04 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

The saga has ended.

I actually felt a twinge of sadness when I heard the news that Ray Lewis had verbally agreed to a new contract. 

Honestly.

Now, we have to turn our full attention to Orioles baseball…unless Maryland pulls a rabbit out of their hat and slips into the NCAA tournament…then we can put off full-fledged O’s-care until almost opening day.

Actually, word is Derrick Mason isn’t happy with HIS contract now.  It’s unconfirmed, of course, but if Mason is, in fact, unhappy, that might get us through a week or two as well.

Back to the subject at hand: The Pay-Ray-Tour has come to an end and, come to find out, the plane never left Baltimore.

Ray’s jumping up and down today, thrilled beyond words to be finishing here in Baltimore with “HIS” great fans.  

I guess $15 million in your hand will do that. 

It would for just about anyone, I suppose.

There’s so much ground to cover that the initial “Ray has signed” review-blog doesn’t need to touch on all the things we’ve learned over the last month or so.

I’m not even going to delve into the negatives or cast a critical eye at anyone tonight.

I’ll just give credit where credit is due.

And, as usual (hopefully, the baseball team is paying attention), the Ravens have done the right thing.

Get the spotlight out, plug it in, and shine it on Owings Mills.

The Ravens have delivered in the clutch, once again.

Ray Lewis is back…the Ravens provided him with the reward he richly deserves…and when 52 comes hopping out of the north tunnel next September, you’ll be able to hear the roar in Middle River.

We’ll cover the Dallas comments, the “I’ll retire before I’ll go back there to Baltimore” rumors and the God-speak tomorrow, perhaps.  We have plenty of time for Ray.

Tonight, raise your glass to the Ravens.

They added a Hall of Very Good center today in Matt Birk.

And they “re-added” a Hall of Fame linebacker today named Ray Lewis.

You probably heard of him before. 

He’s the reason most of you have been going to the games since 1996.

Today, the Ravens rewarded him for that.

Oh, he can play a little football too.  That’s why he got $15 million, ultimately.

But, in the end, some of that money is payment for the “sweat equity” Lewis has invested in the franchise. 

I’m having a glass of 2004 Glenn Beck Cabernet tonight to commemorate the Ravens “doing the right thing.”

Cheers, Ozzie…Steve…John…Eric…Pat.

Well done.

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Ravens will sport a new look in ’09

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

Where will we be this time NEXT year?  

The Ravens’ playoff run for the 2008 season hasn’t been over for 48 hours and they are already forging ahead at Owings Mills in preparation for 2009.

A suggested theme:  ”Let’s play one more game”.

After all, in 2008, the MAXIMUM amount of games a team could have played — 20.  The Ravens played 19.

If only they could have played one more game.

Maybe next year.

But, there will be a lot of action, a lot of news and a lot of changes next year in Baltimore.  Those changes are both obvious and subtle, but equally important.  Some might be changes for the better.  Some might not.  

We won’t know until this time next year.

The most glaring of the changes will be the departure of Baltimore’s long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Rex was not only a fixture here, but he takes with him to New York the one intangible that every coach in any sport craves to own — his players enjoyed playing for him.

Forget about the money.  Forget the “contract year” stuff.  Dismiss styles, schemes, etc.  

Almost to a man in Owings Mills, the players played for Rex Ryan first and foremost.

He will be missed.  The players knew his departure was inevitable.  But that won’t make it any easier when training camp rolls around next July.  Will the new defensive coordinator command the same respect as Rex?  Only time will tell.

When a coach leaves, other’s follow.  Players look around the room and say, “that was MY guy…maybe the next coach won’t appreciate me the way Rex did.”  Some might head out of Baltimore with that thought in mind.  A few players have openly talked about Rex in New York and wondered aloud if perhaps their career trail might lead them to the Jets and a stint in the Big Apple.  

While the Rex decision didn’t fall at the feet of the Ravens, the Ray Lewis decision most certainly will be one they make on their clock.

It will go down as the hot-button topic of the off-season, without a doubt.

It appears as if Ozzie’s summer of ’08 gamble to let Ray play out his contract is going to come back to haunt Steve Bisciotti where it hurts the most – at the bank.  Ray kept his mouth shut all year and played football.  At a high-level.  And when Baltimore trotted out of the locker room on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, they took to the field in large part because of #52′s fearless competitive streak and his Hall-of-Fame performance in 2008.  

Ray deserves to get paid.  

Someone in the league WILL pay him.

It would be grossly unfair if it weren’t the Ravens.

But that’s THEIR decision now.  They have a variety of options.  They can re-sign Ray and give him some sort of staggering signing bonus in the vicinity of $20 million for a 4 or 5 year deal.  They can slap the franchise tag on him and extend him one more season – but Lewis will most likely bristle at that option since he’ll say he played 2008 “in good faith” and the franchise tag is looked upon by most players as a method the club uses to duck out of their obligation to reward a player.  They can also apply the little-used transition tag on Ray and allow him the chance to go out on the open market and secure his best deal – and then the Ravens can match it, and keep him, or let him wander off to (insert team here).

As Ray goes, so will the rest of the off-season.

Baltimore has a number of key players getting to roam around sniffing for a new deal.  If Ray signs, where does that leave Terrell Suggs?  What about Bart Scott?  Jim Leonhard?  Jason Brown?

Who is going to catch the football for Baltimore in 2008?  Isn’t it time for the franchise to make a dedicated commitment – like they did with the QB position last April – to the passing game by adding a couple of quality, reliable, wide receievers who can endure the tough AFC North?  It would appear that the triple threat of Mason-Clayton-DWilliams isn’t going to get the job done.  That’s not to say that one or two of those players can’t fill a role on next year’s team, but Baltimore needs an upgrade at the receiver position. No hard feelings.  

The secondary is in need of an overhaul and a move toward youth.  Perhaps no department on the team battled injuries like this year’s secondary and on the “heart meter”, it zooms past 10 and goes straight to the top.  But, as we saw Sunday night in Pittsburgh, you can have all the heart in the world but that doesn’t matter to Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes.  The Ravens need to add experience, speed and strength in the secondary.  Better ball hawks.  Better tacklers.  Better players.  That’s what they need back there if they want to beat the Steelers next year.  

George Kokinis will be heading off to Cleveland to take over as the Browns’ GM and the Ravens will lose a high-quality front office mind.  He’s a behind-the-scenes guy at Owings Mills that very few people know. I’ll sum up Kokinis for you in about 50 words.  Do you like Jim Leonhard as a player? Justin Bannan? Fabian Washington?  Those are three important parts of the ’08 team that were all signed off on by Kokinis and handed over to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.  Kokinis will be missed.

There’s little doubt that chemistry and personal affection for one another – to a man – had as much to do with Baltimore’s success in ’08 as any element of on-field play with perhaps the exception of the new quarterback from Delaware.  

There’s an old saying:  ”you can’t catch lightning in a bottle…twice.”

How will this team come together next year?  New people.  New personal agendas.  New philosophies.

It might be better, of course.  

But, it might not be.

Joe Flacco will be better.  So will Jared Gaither.  Most of the young players who played a role this year have plenty of upside.  It’s the team experienced corps of veterans who are starting to show the inevitable wear and tear.  But those veterans also comprise the heart and soul of the locker room.  Dan Wilcox is a lion and a player that every man in that locker room looks up to — and he might be moving on if the Ravens elect to not sign him to a new contract.  What happens if Ray Lewis doesn’t get rewarded like he believes he should? Who steps in for him and becomes the team’s beating heart?  

That’s why losing on Sunday was so damaging.

This team – this exact gathering of men – will not be back for a second go-round next season.

These chances don’t come along very often.  

And that’s why Sunday’s loss hurts.

But, teams lose coaches and players every year and they all stay in business and they all do their best to rebound and move on to the next challenge.

For the Ravens, though, the next challenge will come with different people in place.

We trusted the folks in charge of the challenge this year.

It will be hard to replace those that have departed or will move on in the next month or so.

Let’s hope we don’t learn a hard lesson in 2009.

2008 was just too much fun.

And, after all, we’re only asking for the team to play one more game next year.

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Packed at Owings Mills; Probably not at OPACY

Posted on 14 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

It’s AFC Championship Week in Baltimore and the Baltimore, Pittsburgh and national media have descended on Owings Mills.

You’ll be able to hear all of the coverage in a little while once Casey gets all the sound on to our web-site…plus, Casey will be doing the 2-6 pm show with Ray later on today at WNST.

John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Joe Flacco…they all spoke with the media today at the facility and the place was jam-packed with members of the press corps.

For reasons known ONLY to the Orioles, they decided today at noon was the perfect time to have Koji Uehara appear before the Baltimore media at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Other than the beat writer from The Sun and a few stragglers from MASN, I assume the room at OPACY is filled to the brim with Japanese media members who are there for Uehara.

But, 95% of the Baltimore sports media is out here at Owings Mills covering the Ravens-Steelers showdown on Sunday.

It is, after all, a fairly big game.

Speaking of the game, I’ll be doing an “AFC Championship Preview Show” this Saturday from 1-4 pm at WNST, following Ray and Casey (11-1) with their regular Saturday Ravens show.

We probably won’t be discussing Koji Uehara.

Then again, neither will anyone else…today or Saturday.

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