Derrick Mason knows he can't play football forever.
While the wideout may be entering his 12th season in the NFL, coming off a career campaign when he caught a personal-best 103 passes, Mason is trying to set himself up for success when he hangs up his cleats.
That's why he joined a select group of current players last week for the second-annual NFL Broadcast Boot Camp, an intense four-day crash course in everything a career in sports media has to offer.
The Ravens were represented at NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, N.J., by Mason, tight end Daniel Wilcox and former center Mike Flynn.
The program covered a wide range of topics and featured instructors from many of the league's broadcasting partners, such as CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, the NFL Network, Sirius Satellite Radio and Westwood One Radio, in addition to local media outlets.
Participants had the chance to work in areas such as tape study, editing, radio production, studio preparation, field reporting and even in-game play-by-play. Players were able to put together an audition tape - what might be their first game film.
"This camp was like an information overload," Mason said with a laugh. "You don't realize how much preparation goes into these jobs. Even when you are still playing, guys have radio shows and do interviews and in-studio work. This gives you a head start so you don't fall flat on your face when the camera or microphone is on."
Mason is already a member of the current media fraternity, albeit on a much smaller level than his big-network counterparts.
The veteran receiver has hosted his own weekly show on WBAL Radio in the past, as well as a regular spot on "FOX 45 Playbook," a Ravens show co-hosted by sports anchor Bruce Cunningham.
In addition, Mason is typically one of the go-to Ravens in the locker room for reporters in need of a key quote or insightful analysis.
Still, the camp made him realize how much he doesn't know.
"There was a little knowledge there, but you're talking about a small chip out of the iceberg," he admitted. "Having all these executives and on-air personalities there, you really got a good idea of how huge and demanding this business is."
Throughout his Pro Bowl career, Mason has worked with such talents as James Brown, Ron Jaworski, Rich Eisen and Adam Schefter, but not necessarily alongside them. In New Jersey, he sat in front of the cameras next to Brown, regarded as one of the best in the business, on the first day.
By the end, he felt that he knew what field he wanted to enter, especially after speaking with current radio hosts Howard Deneroff of Westwood One, Seth Cohen of Sirius and Mike Quick of Philadelphia Eagles Radio.
"I really love doing radio. Those guys were truly fun to listen to," Mason said, adding his interest in becoming a "man on the scene." "The field work was great, too. We were given a topic, and then had to go out and find the story. We practiced our interviewing skills by partnering up, and then had to put the whole package together."
The jump from a playing career to media doesn't have to be a long and difficult road. From last year's group of 20 players at the inaugural Boot Camp, 12 attendees have already earned broadcasting jobs as a result of their participation.
That included former wideout Ike Reese (Eagles Television Network), offensive lineman Ross Tucker (SI.com and Sirius) and tight end Roland Williams (CBS College Sports).
"You can't help but see all the players that are on these shows that cover the NFL," Mason noted. "It's such a huge sport, and the appetite for more coverage is only growing. What better way to break down the game than from a guy that actually played the game?"
Considering the amount of work Mason puts into his on-field production, he doesn't see much of a difference in broadcasting, whether that's on Sundays as an analyst or daily as a radio host.
"You have to prepare as if you were playing a football game," he concluded. "That commitment and dedication that you had to the game of football has to be brought to this job, as well. The people that last the longest in this business work the hardest.
"That was the main theme from the week - prepare, prepare, prepare."