Calling Mason's bluff
Derrick Mason retiring?
I'll believe it when I see it. I'll believe it when Mason is sitting behind a microphone at the Ravens' complex in Owings Mills, counting the reasons he doesn't want to catch footballs from Joe Flacco anymore. I'll believe it when the Ravens take the field at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 13 in the season opener, and somebody else is wearing Mason's 85.
Until then, I don't believe it.
Now, maybe Mason misses all of training camp. Maybe he doesn't get his normal Westminster reps with Flacco like last year. But whenever he shows up, he'll be ready to go and he'll be reliable as ever.
There's a lot to ponder in his statement on jocklife.com. Mason has been campaigning for a new contract almost since the end of last season. He may well deserve it, given what he means to the team and the offense. But it's clear the Ravens aren't going to give him what he wants.
OK, so he and his agent take their best shot: threaten retirement two weeks before camp begins. Nobody knows if Demetrius Williams' ankle will hold up. No one can be certain Mark Clayton can be a No. 1 receiver. You can be certain, however, that neither Anquan Bolden nor Plaxico Burress will show up here.
Mason appears to hold the hammer. But appearances are often deceiving. If he was considering retirement, why did he go through with the shoulder surgery he had in the offseason? He admitted he wanted to avoid that. Why did he announce this retirement on a Web site the casual fan probably doesn't know, instead of in front of an ESPN camera? If he was really serious about retiring, he'd do it right, sit in front of the insignias of the Ravens' sponsors and give a farewell speech.
Then there was the part about enthusiasm. Mason said he doesn't have it for working out now. I thought that was pretty humorous. Mason is enthusiastic about everything in life, not just football. And he's never not been enthusiastic about football. He's a very good player, a prideful man, and a visible man in the community on his days off. Not enthusiastic? That's like saying the sky's not blue.
Mason left enough doors open in his statement that even I feel the draft, and I'm not talking about the NFL's April lottery.
No, the more Mason and his agent, Lamont Smith, nitpick about the little things that have been said and written since his announcement, the more it seems to be about the money. These things are almost always about money. At 35, Mason's football clock is ticking. He's never been more important to a team. He knows it.
Walk away now when there are more passes to catch and another shot at the elusive Super Bowl trophy? I'll believe that if, on Jan. 3 when the Ravens close the regular season in Oakland, Mason is a distant memory.