Is retirement an option for Mason or Birk?

Both wide receiver Derrick Mason and center Matt Birk are under contract with the Ravens for one more year.

But as they wrap up their 14th and 13th NFL seasons, respectively, each guy acknowledges he will have one question lingering in the back of his mind through at least part of the offseason:

Is it time for me to hang 'em up?

Mason, 37, is the oldest player on the Ravens' roster. He's talked about retirement before - heck, he even announced his retirement two offseasons ago before making a dramatic return to the Ravens during training camp - and didn't have a firm grasp on his plans for next season while cleaning out his locker earlier this week.

He did, however, make one thing clear.

"My one and only goal is to go to a Super Bowl and leave with a Super Bowl," Mason said. "It has eluded me for the last 14 years. Do I come back another year and try it again? I'm not coming back for anything else if that's the case."

Birk, 34, battled a knee injury the last few weeks of the season which left him limping around the Ravens locker room as he packed up his things. He says he won't need offseason surgery on the knee (it was just an issue with the bursa sac, which needed draining at least once a week), but his health and the commitment he would have to put into training for the 2011 season will impact his decision on whether to return.

"I think I'll go home and just see how I feel and just get away from it," Birk said. "I won't just sit down and say 'I'm going to take 30 minutes here and make a decision'. You just go by what you feel. Obviously, this is a job, but it's a lot more than that in the sense that you can't just go through the motions. For me, it's 11 and a half months out of the year I'm a football player, training and doing things. I don't take three months off and do nothing.

"So, it's tough. I guess it's kind of hard to frame all that or say what my plan is going forward, I just know I'm going to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and take it from there. I mean, I don't know what I'm having for lunch today, so it's kind of tough for me to tell you what my future is."

At this point, neither player has told head coach John Harbaugh that he's planning on retiring, and until they do, Harbaugh is under the impression that both Mason and Birk will be back next season.

"I'm sure when they get to this stage, guys always have to think about that every year," Harbaugh said. "I'll keep my fingers crossed that they don't. I think we're a better team with both those two guys, and my guess is they have a couple years left. It'll be a family decision for them probably, but those are staples of our team right now.

"We're all replaceable, and we would obviously move on if anybody decided not to play anymore, but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for those two guys."

Personally, I'd be surprised to see either Mason or Birk retire this offseason. Neither dealt with serious injuries during the 2010 campaign, and both are still playing at a high level.

The allure of a Super Bowl ring still holds strong for these guys, both of whom have made deep playoff runs in their career but never been a part of a championship team. I'd be surprised if both aren't back to chase the Lombardi Trophy again next season.

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