Ozzie Newsome opening statement:"Good afternoon. I'll begin. If I can remember, flying back from the Combine at the airport [in 2005], getting a call from [vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty] as I was walking through the concourse, and he said, 'The Mason deal is done.' At that time of the year, when you are trying to put your football team together to be able to acquire someone like Derrick – and Derrick was a player that we had competed against because he was with Tennessee and we used to be in the same division – and I know the other team that was involved in trying to woo Derrick was the New England Patriots. So, you talk about a team that had an established quarterback, multiple Super Bowls, and we were trying to get him to come to Baltimore to be a part of what we were trying to get done. So, driving from the airport to home, I was a very happy man, knowing that Derrick Mason was coming to play for the Baltimore Ravens.
"In his career, and you've got all the numbers, but when I look at Derrick's career, he is drafted out of Michigan State, and the way that he could get on the field was to be a punt returner and a kick returner. Not only was he a returner – he ended up becoming a Pro Bowl returner at Tennessee – then he worked himself into the starting lineup and became a very prolific receiver with Steve McNair throwing the ball to him. 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. 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. In my mind, [he is] probably at the top because of the number of years that he played here as a guy that wasn't drafted here."
John Harbaugh opening statement: "One thing, on behalf of the coaches and also the fans, the Ravens fans, it would be appropriate to say, 'Thanks for retiring a Raven.' It means a lot to all of us that you would choose to retire as a Raven. I know that's how the fans feel. You've had a great career in two places, but what you meant to this team – since 2008, I guess, are the years that I can talk to the most – and just your competitiveness, your competitive spirit, your toughness, mentally and physically, your work ethic, those things could never be challenged. The numbers, as you've all seen, are pretty incredible. The receiving numbers, the catches, the yards, all of these things are incredible. But, we talked about this in the hallway: The things that jump out for me are he never missed a game in his Ravens career, ever. I don't remember you ever missing a practice that I can recall. From 2002-2011, you played in 149-straight games. As a special teams guy, [you] posted 5,000 return yards and 10,000 receiving yards – the only player in NFL history, ever, in the history of the game, to do that. This play right here [Harbaugh references a picture of Mason], where the physical nature of your play when the two Detroit players both fell off … Remember that? And you ran another 40 yards for a touchdown. That's one that just jumps out in my mind. The other one would have been the Dallas game down in Dallas when we closed that stadium up and just the heroic effort when you had the cracked scapula. Not just that, but [you] played the rest of the season and practiced the rest of the season with a cracked scapula. That's the Derrick Mason that we all know and love. Three guys just jump out at me here: [offensive coordinator] Cam Cameron, [WRs coach] Jim Hostler, the relationship you had with your coaches, from a professional, work ethic and then Joe Flacco. The chemistry that you two guys had here for those years and the numbers you guys put up and the games you guys won together, as a head coach, that makes me proud. So, congratulations, man."
Derrick Mason opening statement: "It's better now than never I figured. (laughing) I had some things written out, but it's bittersweet for me. Honestly, it is. The season , the year didn't go the way I wanted it to, but it went the way it should have went. I believe that, I truly believe that. I believe God had something else for me. I think there was a lesson that I needed to learn last year. Regardless of what went on, I think there was a lesson I needed to learn, and I learned it. I was able to mentally prepare myself to retire last year. My heart was still here – it really was. But, I still had to go out and try to perform a job, knowing that the most vital part of my being, the most vital part, the piece of my body that I play with the most, was still here in Baltimore. It was hard for me to go through it last season, but I knew it was a test, and I knew I had to do it. I wouldn't have changed it. No other way, because, like I said, it allowed me to mentally put myself in this position to be satisfied, content, all right with making the decision I am making today. First off, I want to thank my family, who supported me for 15 years. It was a hard 15 years. The first four years were not the best, or three and a half were not the best, because we never knew what the situation was going to be. But, they stood in there, they hung in there with me. Marci, D.J. and Bailee, they stuck in there and they hung in there with me. For that, I am truly grateful. Whenever you can have a family that stands in there with you no matter what the situation is, that's a good thing. So, I would like to thank them. 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. I would like to thank Ozzie, coach Harbaugh, [team president] Mr. [Dick] Cass, [owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, for allowing me to come back here and retire. 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. This is the suit that I wore when I signed. So, two things either happened. Either it was big when I wore it or I haven't gained any weight. I tend to think the latter. (laughter) I haven't gained any weight. I stayed pretty much in shape. It's a good thing.
"Also, I'd like to thank [former vice president of medical services/head certified athletic trainer] Bill Tessendorf and the training staff because I didn't go six years without missing a game for no reason. Those guys really helped me out a lot. There were times where maybe I couldn't go, they made sure in the morning that I had what I needed and was able to go out there and practice, and I had what I needed to go out there and play. Bill was the type of guy that if you asked him on a Wednesday that you needed something, he had it to you on a Thursday or he would sure enough have it to you in your locker by Sunday. You don't get that every place, and that I truly appreciate that because those guys took care of you. You became more or less their children in a sense. I know Bill is not that old, but you became children to them in a sense because they had to take care of you. They did a damn good job, excuse my French, but they did a damn good job at it. [Former equipment manager] Ed Carroll, [equipment manager] Will Sheridan and the equipment room, those guys … Whenever I needed something, it was a, 'Go get it, Mase. You can have it.' Those guys made sure I had my shoes, my gloves, everything I needed so I would be well-prepared on game day. Community relations, they did a great job. [Senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin Byrne, excellent job. I will always have something good to say about Kevin – always, even though him and I kind of butted heads here and there when it comes to basketball. His wife, himself, they opened their arms to us when we got here, and we will always be grateful for that. The staff inside the dining room, [food services attendant] Manny [Tejeda], you can't say enough about him either. When you needed your eggs, he had them. So, he always kept you nourished, and he always kept me well-fed my last year here going home. That I do appreciate. [director of security] Darren [Sanders], everybody else in security, they were family, too. I consider them brothers because I could call them at a drop of a dime, and they were right on it. I didn't have to call them too many times late at night, fortunately, but if I needed them during the day, they were always there to take a call. So, I really do appreciate that.
"The fans of Baltimore, I really do appreciate you. I have always said this: You took a guy and his family that you rooted against for eight years – and I can remember playing at old Memorial Stadium – and you rooted against us coming into that building. Eight years after that, coming here, and you embracing me. That felt good. That truly felt good. There are not too many places you can go and a place really embraces you the way that the city of Baltimore embraced me. I will be forever indebted to this city. The decision wasn't hard to retire, and the decision where to retire was just as easy because, like I said, my heart was here. It never left. My body left, but my heart stayed right in these rooms. You all have some of the finest coaches here, coach Cameron, coach 'Hoss' [Hostler] – I think two of the brightest offensive minds. I have learned a lot from Cam, and I have learned a lot from 'Hoss.' Like coach said, it wasn't just a working relationship. It was more than that. I could remember being at my locker and sitting at my locker, and 'Hoss' knew something was wrong with me. Him coming here and putting his arms around me and saying, 'Is everything OK?' And I'm sitting there, I'm crying because there were things going on. He sat there and kind of said a few words, and we talked about it a little bit later. That right there showed me that it was more than just football. It was about, 'Are you OK today? Will you be OK tomorrow?' It wasn't just Xs and Os all day. It was, 'OK, how are you? How is your family doing? You seem a little down today, what's going on?' So, they really cared about you. That I appreciate. You don't get that too many places. I've been to three other places, and that is not common at other places. With that said, I enjoyed my journey. It was fun. I'm sorry that I didn't get an opportunity, while I was playing, to bring a Super Bowl to this city, another one. But, I think you all are in good hands with Joe [Flacco], who to me, is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He proved that last year, so I think you all are in good hands. As well as Torrey [Smith], who now can become that go-to guy. He did a great job last year, and now he gets to build on what he did last year. Anquan [Boldin], he is always going to be a consummate pro. Then you have some other guys that are on that offense that will make sure this team is good moving forward. I guess I can't leave without thanking, I guess, two or three other people that I played with. First, Ray Lewis just because of his competitiveness. When you play a game, and you watch another man play a game and play it with the passion that he plays with, you have to admire it because there was not once that he stepped on that field when he didn't give his all. That I will respect about him. J.O. [Jonathan Ogden], to me, [was] the best left tackle in the game. It was great playing with him. Two other people, obviously, I think the greatest player that I've seen play the game, Ed Reed. Him and I became close friends, but to me, just watching him work and talking with him, it was amazing. It is amazing how he thinks when it comes to football. It was great playing alongside those three guys [in] my time here. I can't leave without thanking Steve [McNair], because him and I, more or less, grew up together in the game of football my first eight years and one here. Because of him, my numbers are what they are, because he looked for me, he trusted me, he counted on me. And I hope I never failed him. So, he will always, always be No. 1 with me. Thank you, media. I appreciate it. I always smiled. I hope I never was rude to you guys. And if I was, you know I didn't mean it. But, I always tried to give you a smile, and I always tried to give the interview that you wanted. I always tried to be available for you because I know how hard the job is. But, I thank you for being professionals at what you do. Again, my run is over. It was a good one, and I am happy."
What made you decide to retire a Raven after spending more time in Tennessee? (Joe Platania)
(MASON) "Because my heart was here. 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."
What allowed you to tough it out and play through the pain always? (Aaron Wilson)
(MASON) "Maybe I'm hardheaded. (laughing) No, but that's the way I grew up, man, that's the way I grew up. (laughing) I mean, I grew up and you couldn't quit; you just couldn't no matter what the situation is, you couldn't quit. I can remember playing in a parking lot with some grass with my brothers, and I hit my head on the concrete, had a big knot on my head. I'm walking home crying, and my brother grabs me by my neck and says, 'You're not quitting.' So, I had to play, and that's where it comes from. I was born and raised that way."
How close were you to ever signing with New England? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(MASON) "It was close. I went there. I met with everyone, and it was close. But it was something about this place. Having played this team for so many years, I knew what this team was about and, it might sound kind of crazy, but being an offensive player when you play against a defensive that is so tough, you want to be a part of that defense because you don't want to play them anymore. (laughing) So that was, honestly, one of the main reasons was that I got tired of playing this defense and I knew coming here that the defense was already set. They had a tradition of playing great defense, and I was coming to a place that I can try to help jumpstart an offense and I was right. This defense hasn't wavered from what they were when I signed here six years ago."
(HARBAUGH) "You never seemed to have any problem going against them in practice. You went right at them in practice every day."
(MASON) "I had to, I had to. (laughing) But they took it light on me in practice because they needed me on Sundays."
When they released you last summer, as it was a very emotional and difficult thing, you guys stayed in touch, like they said they would, and you guys talked. If you could take us through that, and how did you go from that point when you were upset and mad to where you are now, sitting here today and where everything has fallen? (Aaron Wilson)
(MASON) "It's a business and you can respect a GM in Ozzie, because this is why I have so much respect for not just John, but for two other people, for Jeff [Fisher, formerly in Tennessee] and Ozzie, because when I got released six/seven years ago, Jeff brought me in his office and we talked. And as a player, that's all you want. Why, when, how, what are you thinking, even before it happened, this is what is going to happen. I hate it, but OK. Fine, as a player that is all you want. It was the same with Ozzie, 'Hey Mase, this is what's going to happen, but I need you to come down here. I want to talk to you.' He could have easily just said, 'Hey, we are going to release you and we will see what happens down the road,' but he didn't. He said, 'Come on down here and let's talk,' and we talked about it and we had a good talk, and that you respect more than anything. So, why not? Regardless of what happened, why it happened, who cares? He had enough respect for me to bring me in his office and he talked, and John had enough respect for me to bring me in his office and him and I talked. So, being released is going to happen, eventually. Everyone is going to get released unless you just retire before that happens, but if you understand that it's a business, you might be upset for a minute, but if you understand that it's a business, it's going to be OK. And if they did it in the manner that this organization did it, then you are fine with it. You can move on."
Derrick, what does it mean to you to be the team career leader in catches and receiving yards? What does it mean to you to be on the top of all of those? (David Ginsburg)(MASON) "It means the people that were throwing it to me had enough confidence that I would go and catch the ball, and [that] the people that were calling the plays trusted me enough that I would be where I needed to be, and that I would catch the ball. That's what it means – nothing more, nothing less. If they don't trust you, you don't catch balls. But if they trust you – not only the quarterback but the offensive coordinator trusts you – then you'll be OK, you'll catch a lot of footballs. You'll be able to make a lot of things happen on the field. And that circle of people trusted me. They trusted me to go out there and do a job and do it to the best of my ability."
Derrick, how would you like to be remembered, your legacy as a football player and as a person? (Aaron Wilson)
(MASON) *"How do I think I'll be thought of? I don't know. It's yet to be seen. You hear things here and there: 'He was a good receiver. He was a great receiver. He was an average receiver.' You kind of hear all three of them, but I just want to be remembered [as] a guy that went out there and did what he was supposed to do on the football field, a guy that stuck up for his players regardless of what the situation was. Coach [Harbaugh] and I butted heads a few times because I was taking up for those players (laughter*) – I caught the tail end of it – but it was fun. It was fun, because when that happened, when we walked off the field, it was like it never happened. Or five minutes later it was like it never happened. But, I just want to be remembered as a guy that went out there and did his job the way he knew how, and that was hard and fast."
Do you have a favorite memory? (Kris Jones)
(MASON) "I think my Holiday Helpers [charity event]. That was probably my favorite thing. You know, taking 150, somewhere around there, kids, with the help of my teammates, and staff, taking them shopping and making their Christmas a lot better than what they thought it would be. That I will remember. We did it for three or four years straight, and I always looked forward to it. And I always enjoyed watching those children grab presents – not just for themselves – but for their sisters and mothers, brothers, aunts, uncles, fathers, whatever it may be. A lot of them weren't even getting gifts for themselves. That meant a lot, because not only was it the funding from the foundation, but more importantly, it was the time that the players and staff put in, and it was the time that I put in. And that, I think, they enjoyed more than anything. So that, I will remember. I think that will come to mind each and every time."
What are you going to do now, Derrick? (Bruce Cunningham)
*(MASON) *"What am I doing now, what am I going to do now, what am I doing now? Oh, man. Well, when the kids were in school, I would shuttle them back and forth to school and spend a lot of time with my son and daughter. Now that they're out of school, I do a little coaching, helping the high school. [My kids] go to the lower school; I help out the high school a little bit and do some things on radio here and there. But right now, I'm just resting. I'm just enjoying myself right now. Enjoying my time at home, and trying to spend as much time as I can with [my kids] Derrick and Bailee. I know they enjoy me being back at home, and I enjoy it as well. But eventually, I will start to work in a little while. I want to work, because if I don't do anything else it gets boring. But I will start working, and then couple that with doing things with the kids, it keeps me very busy. So, I'm going to rest for the next couple of months, but then I'll get back to work."
Derrick, how well prepared do you feel for retirement? (Aaron Wilson)
(MASON) "I feel very prepared. You never know what's going to happen tomorrow, but I feel very confident that I've done enough – and let me rephrase that, I didn't do enough – my family did enough to make sure that I can stop playing and be OK. Not just financially, but mentally, and physically. I'm not a big numbers guy, but I had enough good people around me to make sure that I was doing what I needed to do in order to be able to walk away and be OK, and not have to look for the next big thing. I'm content where I'm at. I'm fine. I make just enough, just enough. So, that's good with me."
What do you think your chances are of joining Ozzie [Newsome] in the Hall of Fame? (Joe Platania)
(MASON) "I don't know. I really don't. [Ozzie] 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 [his 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."
Derrick, two years from now, if you were a guessing man … Are we talking broadcasting, coaching, business? (Peter Schmuck)
(MASON) "Coaching, I can't go any higher than high school. I can't do it. (laughing) I don't see how coach [Harbaugh] does it. I don't know how you do it, but I can't. Cam and I used to talk about it all the time. [He'd say], 'You can coach, you can coach.' I'm like, 'Cam, I can't do it.' It's worse than being a player. You all spend too much time in this building, and I can't do it. But that's why you have a good team, because of the work and hours that they put in. But coaching, I'll coach high school. Business-wise, yes. Broadcasting is yet to be seen. I hope so, but I'm not making those decisions. I could just hope that what I've put on film, on the airwaves, is good enough. And that this smile is pretty enough." (laughter)