Legendary 75 Section | **Jonathan Ogden Bio**
One of the most storied careers in NFL history will come to a close this week, as Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is expected to announce his retirement at a press conference scheduled for Thursday, June 12.
Ogden is due in Baltimore for his foundation's golf tournament Friday. Many of Ogden's former teammates, both current and past Ravens, will be in attendance at the 11:30 a.m. announcement.
After the Ravens made Ogden their first-ever draft pick in team history - fourth overall in 1996 - he set a standard for offensive linemen, rattling off 11 consecutive Pro Bowl campaigns from 1997-2007.
Judging by the locker room following Wednesday's Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the player referred to simply as "J.O.," will certainly be missed.
"He brought me along so fast," said guard Jason Brown. "He helped me to definitely be a better player. With him just going out there, that gave me veteran leadership. He wouldn't always tell me what to do, the right things to do, but you know what, if I ever did something wrong he would definitely let me know.
"If my career could be half of what his career is – what would that be, like five Pro Bowls for me? Honestly, that's the pinnacle of our sport."
At 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, Ogden had the prototype size of a Greek statue, impossibly combined with the nimble feet and athleticism of a basketball forward. One only had to watch the elite pass rushers regularly eclipsed coming off the left side of the line to note Ogden's rare ability.
Regarded by many as the greatest left tackle ever, Ogden leaves with a heady list of accomplishments to go along with his many Pro Bowls. He holds a Super Bowl XXXV ring, was a key cog in Jamal Lewis' 2,066-yard rushing season in 2003 (second-best in league annals) and is likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he's eligible in 2013.
"Not too many people get an opportunity to play with a Super Bowl champion," stated Ravens wideout Derrick Mason. "And, to be able to come here and see the way J.O. worked, even through his injuries that he battled back from – to see him work, and see the effort that he gave and relentless attitude he gave out on the field – it was unbelievable.
"There are not too many opportunities to play with a Hall of Famer, and when you do, you relish it and you cherish the moments that you have, because these are moments you can go back and talk about 10, 15, 20 years from now. He might be the best to ever play the game with his sheer size, strength and ability to play left tackle. All I can say is, 'Hey, I played with that guy. Absolutely amazing.'"
A turf toe injury caused him to miss the final two games of 2006, but he returned to hold Dwight Freeney to no tackles in a playoff matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. When he left the field that cold January night, Ogden contemplated his final days as a Raven.
It took an offseason of recovery his home of Las Vegas with his wife, Kema, and three-year-old son, Jayden, but he decided to come back and played in 11 games in 2007, earning another Pro Bowl spite of a constantly aching foot.
"He plays more like a basketball player and that's the key to your game is your feet," Heap said. "Especially when you spend your whole career pushing off that toe, you could tell when it was bothering. That was the sign of a true pro, he was still at the top of the game even when it was bothering him."
Ogden had supreme respect from his entire team, from top to bottom. The UCLA graduate was typically soft-spoken, preferring to bury his nose in a New York Times bestseller on the training table or treadmill.
But when he did open his mouth, his fellow Ravens were sure to listen, whether that was on the field or in the meeting room.
Brown, who started 20 games alongside Ogden at left guard for the past two seasons, remembers how much he sought No. 75's approval.
"I was like a young pup going out there, saying to myself, 'I just want to make this guy happy,'" Brown said. "After every single double-block we would have I'd ask, 'Is that good enough J.O.?' He'd be like, 'Yeah, that's good buddy.'"
Quarterback Kyle Boller, a beneficiary of Ogden's blocking after starting immediately as a rookie, remembered the tackle's fiery temper when the offense hit a road bump.
"Especially being a young rookie, I would go out there and make some mistakes some times and make him unhappy," he explained with a laugh. "He was a leader. He didn't say that much, but when he did it really meant a lot. He was a guy that I really respect and you want to play hard for."
With Baltimore using recent draft picks on offensive linemen to infuse youth into the group, Ogden remained a critical veteran presence.
Brown and tackle Adam Terry were selected in 2005, followed by guard/center Chris Chester the next year. Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda and Jared Gaither - Ogden's probable replacement at left tackle - joined the Ravens last season.
"I think anytime you can be around someone of his caliber, it can help you out a lot as a person and as a player on the field," said Gaither, who is considered a raw prospect after coming out of Maryland after his sophomore campaign. "He did a lot of things for me. Just being next to him and able to ask questions has helped me a lot."
Gaither and the rest of the Ravens know they have a massive void to fill now that Ogden is officially finished.
On the other hand, they did enjoy the luxury playing next to a legend, something no one in Baltimore will take for granted.
Legendary 75 Section | **Jonathan Ogden Bio**