Derrick Mason spent more than half of his 15 years in the NFL career with the Tennessee Titans, but on Monday, he called it a career with the organization that meant most to him.
Mason retired as a member of the Ravens, with whom he spent six seasons before a difficult 2011 split between the New York Jets and Houston Texans.
Mason remains the Ravens’ all-time leader in receptions (471) and receiving yards (5,777) while ranking behind only Todd Heap in touchdown catches (29) and games played by a receiver (96).
But why did he choose to end it with Baltimore despite spending two more years with the Titans, the team that drafted him in 1997?
“Because my heart was here,” Mason told reporters at his farewell press conference Monday in Owings Mills. “Tennessee is a good place, it’s a great place, and like I said, they gave me an opportunity to start my career, and I will always thank the brass there. But my heart was here. You can’t do something somewhere else when your heart is in another place. My heart was here, so it was an easy choice for me.”
Mason was a two-time Pro Bowler and a 2000 All-Pro. The 38-year-old ranks highly on a few NFL all-time lists - 11th with 943 receptions, 14th with 17,150 all-purpose yards and 19th with 12,061 receiving yards.
Whether that will be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame remains to be seen. Not even Mason has a good idea about his chances.
“I don’t know. I really don’t,” Mason told reporters. “(Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome) revitalized the tight end position; I don’t think I revitalized the wide receiver position by any means (or) stretch of the imagination. I went out and I did my job. I hope the numbers speak for themselves.
“Was I flashy? No. But I was hard worker, and I went out and did what I was supposed to do. So, if you’re just looking at the numbers, I don’t know, there might be an argument. But if not, then hey, everybody can’t get in. Everybody can’t, and you can’t hang your hat on that, whether you get in or not. I’m not going to do that. If one day they do indeed call, or my name comes up, and by the grace of God I’m in, I would cry. Seriously. But if not, hey, I’m a Hall of Famer to two little people (my children) that’ll be grown by the time that Hall of Fame thing even starts to come up. So, I’m a Hall of Famer to them, too.”
Newsome described Mason as one of his best free-agent acquisitions as the Ravens’ No. 1 decision-maker.
“Over the 16, 17 years that we’ve been here, we’ve signed a lot of free agents - a lot of them. But, I don’t know if there is any one player over the span of their career that did more for this organization than Derrick Mason did,” Newsome told reporters. “It could be argued that when you list them all, what Derrick did in the years that he was here, he’d be at the top or near the top.”
And after parting ways with the team a year ago, Mason expressed only gratitude to the Ravens for letting him come back to end his career in purple.
“I would like to thank the organization for allowing me to have an opportunity to hang up my cleats here. It’s an amazing place. My journey was amazing,” he told reporters.
“There are not many places you can go and play some good football, go to another team and they let you come back and retire. That speaks volumes, not just for yourself, I think, but for the organization because you meant a lot to them. I will be forever grateful of that.”