It's been speculated throughout the offseason that the Baltimore Ravens were interested in acquiring another wide receiver, a deep-threat speedster for Joe Flacco to lean on and grow with.
But Flacco already has his go-to guy in Derrick Mason. And Mason isn't fazed by the idea of competition for that spot.
"I don't take it personal," Mason said in a radio interview with 105.7 The Fan's Mark Viviano and Damon 'The Bulldog' Jaffe last week. "Everywhere that I've been, they've always said, 'Well they need somebody else. Can they get a bigger receiver? Can they get a receiver to do this or do that? But I've always seemed to come out each and every season and prove everybody wrong.
"I'm a guy who's here to stay. I do what I need to do in the offseason to make sure I can make it through the full season. They say that, it fuels my drive to continue to go out there and play harder."
One of the most persistent rumors this offseason has been the Ravens' interest in trading for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Mason wouldn't necessarily have a problem with that.
"I think he's one of the best receivers in the league. I think it would be nice if [the team] were to bring him here, I would have no gripes about it," Mason offered. "It would only make our football team better."
Mason did point out, however, that his numbers and Boldin's numbers were very comparable from last season, and that his yards per catch was even higher than Boldin's. Mason averaged 13 yards per catch in 2008; Boldin averaged 11.7.
Mason was the most productive wide receiver on the Ravens' roster last season, starting every game and catching 80 balls for 1,037 yards, including five touchdowns. It was Mason's seventh 1,000-yard season in his career, his third in Baltimore.
Mason also became the 31st player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiver yards, a mark he reached in front of a home crowd against Jacksonville on December 28. What made it even more impressive was he was playing with an injured left shoulder for nearly half the season.
Mason says his shoulder is close to 100 percent after 11 weeks of rehab. When asked about another offseason issue, his contract, Mason reaffirmed his commitment to the team.
Mason is entering the last year of the deal he signed with Baltimore as a free agent from Tennessee in 2005. He spoke publicly about wanting a new deal once the season ended.
"I think everybody understands my frame of thought, and I know the organization's frame of thought," Mason said. "I know this thing will work out, so I'm not going to pitch a fit.
"When I go out there and play football, I'm playing for the team. Regardless of what happens, I'm playing for the other 52 guys in that locker room."
Among those 52 other guys will be members of the Ravens' 2009 Draft class, a draft widely considered to be deep in receivers, a position the Ravens would address. When they didn't, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome asserted he was comfortable with the guys he has, including Mason.
Mason knows the risk involved with selecting wide receivers, saying he's seen receivers who could run the 40-yard dash in 4.2 or 4.3 seconds, but still never panned out in the NFL.
"I don't look at the guys that have been doing it for two to three years. I look at the guys that have been doing it five, six, seven, eight, nine years," Mason pointed out. "Guys that have been doing it for a long period of time, a guy that you can line up anywhere on the field and he can run the whole route. Not too many guys can do that. You might have a good season or two here or there. But after a while, teams catch up with that, and they know how to neutralize that speed."
Mason elaborated further on what he looks for in a fellow wide receiver, and more importantly in a teammate.
"What you need is two guys (wide receivers) that are able to play the game of football. You give me 11 guys that are willing to play football and play it hard and play it for four quarters and I'll win you a championship," Mason asserted. "As a receiver, if you're looking for a set of receivers that complement one another, you look for two guys that are dependable. He doesn't have to be a 4.3 guy, but if he can make the play down the field that you need him to make, then that's what you need to have."
Mason lastly talked about preparing for the 2009 season with quarterback Joe Flacco under center, and the confidence he inspires in his receivers.
"There's no doubt, there's no wavering, there's nobody outside [the Ravens] to say, 'Well the quarterback position is that position that we just don't know.'" Mason looks at Flacco and sees a player who can make plays when he needs to.
"(Having a quarterback in place) always gives a receiver that added step to come in prepared to play," Mason noted. With the confidence of his team and his general manager (as well as a healthy shoulder), Mason is likely to have a few extra steps leading into this season.