You know in Always Sunny in Philadelphia when Charlie goes America all over everyone’s ass? Well, that’s completely irrelevant, but Derrick Mason just went Barry Sanders all over the Baltimore Ravens’ asses. After 12-seasons in the NFL, Mason announced his abrupt retirement just before training camp, leaving the Ravens with a gaping hole at one of their key offensive positions.
In mid-July of 1999, Barry Sanders retired from the NFL, the summer after the Detroit Lions failed to make the playoffs thanks to a four game losing streak to end the season. During Barry’s 10-year career, the Lions experienced four first round losses and an NFC Championship defeat — Barry was tired of losing and didn’t have the same passion to return for another season. I don’t think Derrick Mason’s retirement is necessarily of the same magnitude, but it’s timing could not be any worse for his team.
You see, Barry retired just before training camp, too, leaving the Lions without a legitimate running back. It was too late for the Lions to sign anyone of any significance and obviously the draft already took place. The Lions had no idea they would need to replace one of the best running backs in NFL history for the upcoming season.
Similarly, the Ravens are left without their best wide receiver from a year ago, one that certainly helped quarterback Joey Flacco in his first NFL season. That same WR is leaving the now second year QB with Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, a couple WRs who combined for 26 less catches than Mason caught. Baltimore will find another WR, but an earlier retirement would have allowed the Ravens to grab a WR in the draft or earlier in free agency.
Make no mistake, I’m not comparing Mason and Barry Sanders as players. I’m comparing their ill advised timing of their retirements and the respective holes they left their teams. That, and the fact that Mason is from Detroit and Sanders played for Detroit are the only similarities. That doesn’t mean Mason was out of Barry’s league. To say Mason was a quality WR in the NFL would be an understatement. He had 1,000 yards receiving seven times in his 12-year career and caught more than 80 balls in five seasons. He ranks amongst the top WR in the game in all major receiving categories since 2001.
People will argue that Mason doesn’t owe it to the Ravens to play when he doesn’t want to, that the death of his once teammate and friend, Steve McNair may have justifiably put him over the top and forced him to walk away from the game. I’m all for a player retiring before his time and for good cause, because I’d rather not have a person trying to fake his way through a season, sometimes hurting a team more than helping. I want a player to have his heart 100% dedicated to the team (although 50% Barry Sanders would probably be better than, gulp, Ron Rivers). That doesn’t mean I’m okay with it being completely random and where it hurts the team even more.
You see, Derrick Mason said he had been thinking about retiring since the season ended. The Ravens say his retirement came as a complete shock and they had him penciled in as their starting WR for game one. The very moment he was contemplating retirement, he should have let the team know, so they could have gone out and at least contemplate picking up some WR to potentially replace him and keep Flacco feeling comfortable under center. Instead, he went as far as saying Baltimore wasn’t in any need of WR upgrades in May. Then he retires two months later, out of the blue.
The Ravens might not be losing Barry Sanders, but I definitely know how they feel with this awful, thoughtless, perhaps even selfish, timing of a retirement.
UPDATE: Mason is even pulling a Barry by saying he “could” return, but will remain retired for the time being. I hate 99% sure retirements.
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