Derrick Mason faced reality this week. His NFL career had come to an end.
He has known it was over, but it's never easy to leave a sport you have played virtually all your life.
Derrick Mason played 15 NFL seasons, eight with the Titans, six of them in Baltimore. He was a salary cap casualty as a Titan, but his production remained not only consistent, but he contributed mightily to the Ravens, even though the franchise released him two seasons ago and he finished up with the Jets and Texans.
Even though he chose to announce his official retirement in Baltimore, Derrick Mason will always be a Titan in this town. It is where he and his family have chosen to live. He shares our values.
D-Mase was the consummate professional. His work ethic was undeniable. He brought his lunch pail to work every day. He never cut corners when it came to getting the job done.
It will be left to others to see if his numbers add up to Hall of Fame standards.
He ranks 11th in league history with 943 receptions. He is 19th with 12,061 receiving yards. The books tell us he is the only player in NFL history to pile up more than 5,000 return yards and 10,000 receiving yards.
He left the Ravens as the franchise's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards.
“My heart was here,'' Mason said at his Baltimore press conference. “It never left. My body left, but my heart stayed right in these rooms.
“There are not too many places you can go and be embraced the way the city of Baltimore embraced me. I will forever be indebted to this city.''
Mason was a crowd favorite in Nashville, as well.
“Tennessee is a great place. They gave me an opportunity to start my career and for that I will always thank the brass there. But my heart was here. You can't do something somewhere else when you heart in in another place. My heart was here, so it was an easy choice for me.''
Mason was hurt when the Titans forced him out of town, as they failed to offer the free agent a contract in 2005 and Baltimore scooped him up. He paid them back when he retired a Raven.
Mason said it was an easy decision. I found it surprising, as he had such a close relationship on the field with the late Titans quarterback, Steve McNair.
Mason was emotional in Baltimore as he talked about McNair.
“Because of him my numbers are what they are,'' he said. “Because he looked for me, he trusted me. He counted on me. I hope I never failed him. He will always be No. 1 with me.''
Mason seemed to improve with age. I remember talking to then-Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz about him as the Titans prepared to play the Ravens.
Schwartz said he was amazed at Mason's ability to not only be a dependable receiver as he got in his mid-30s, but that Mason was able to be even more of an impact player than he had been with the Titans.
He not only had not slowed down, but the former Michigan State wide receiver was even more difficult to cover.
Mason's ability to show up every Sunday only adds to his resume. He didn't dazzle you with his speed. At 5-10, he was not a visible target you could easily spot. But he was always where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be there.
Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said has never seen a better route-runner as Mason in football.
Now he will retire and adjust to that lifestyle. He plans to take some time to spend with his family, then see what is out there for him. Maybe a business opportunity will attract him. Perhaps broadcasting is in his future.
He went all out as a football player.
“I went out and did my job,'' he said. “I hope the numbers speak for themselves. Was I flashy? No. But I was hard-working. I went out and did what I was supposed to do.''
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at email@example.com.