Mason's Return Still Cloudy

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 The Ravens are confident that wideout Derrick Masonwill be available by the time training camp practices begin on July 28.

Someone just needs to convince Mason of that fact.

Mason continues to remain noncommittal about the timetable for a return from offseason surgery that repaired his labrum and scapula in his left shoulder.

He recently participated in individual drills during last week's minicamp, but continued to wear the red mesh top over his jersey to indicate that he had not been cleared for contact.

"You never know with Superman," Mason said. "I can come out with the cape and it could be the first day or the second week. You never know, but I'm optimistic that when it's time to play, I'll be able to play whenever it is. I'll be able to play when we play Kansas City."

Ravens head coach John Harbaughhad previously expressed optimism that his leading receiver would be ready to play earlier than the season opener.

"I think there's a real good chance Derrick will be there for training camp, but that obviously depends on what's best for Derrick," Harbaugh noted. "What we are most concerned about – and I think the point Derrick's probably making – is that Derrick starting the season healthy is the No. 1 concern, so whatever we have to do to make that happen [we will do].

"He's not a guy who's going to need a ton of training camp reps, just like Ray [Lewis]. You temper all those guys a little bit. But I'm pretty sure Derrick will be there for most, if not all, of training camp."

Mason has looked solid in what work he has been able to participate.

His familiar No. 85 leads all other wideouts through individual portions of practice, and his connection with quarterback Joe Flacco is evident. Mason understands how imperative it is to build on that relationship during the spring and summer.

"I want to get back out there on the field and play with the guys, but if I can't then I'm not going to press the issue," Mason said. "I feel good, but I have to get into a rhythm with Joe and Troy [Smith].* *I wanted to try to get myself back into football shape. I've been running and things like that, but it's something different on the field."

At this point, Mason is the Ravens' only receiver that has proven he can be a playmaker on a game-by-game basis. Last year, he paced the team with 80 receptions for 1,037 yards, adding five touchdowns. It was the seventh season in the past eight where Mason topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark.

With Flacco entering his second season, Mason – and the Ravens – anticipates that Mark Claytonand Demetrius Williamscan take the next step and taking advantage of Flacco's prodigious passing talent.

"Everything happens for a reason, and I think I was able to learn how to play with pain," Mason said of his 2008 campaign. "My tolerance got much deeper. I think it was an OK season, because I go in every year trying to be better than the previous one. If you're a starter, that's something you should be able to do.

"It's all about who can stay healthy. If Mark and Demetrius are healthy, the focus is taken away from me and I can make more plays."

Mason has proven that he can consistently produce on the field. The question this year is when he can get back on it.

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