NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Derrick Mason thought about going back to Baltimore. He considered Tennessee, too.
There was just something about the Jets that outweighed everything else.
“I’m coming to the end of my career and I can still play a lot of good football, but I wanted to take every opportunity to try to win a Super Bowl,” the Jets’ newest wide receiver said Sunday. “For me, this was the best place to try to do that.”
The 37-year-old Mason signed a two-year deal with the Jets, picking them over his previous two teams. He fills the void created when New York granted Jerricho Cotchery’s request to be released. There’s also a comfort level in coming to New York, since he knows Rex Ryan from their days together with the Ravens when the coach was the defensive coordinator.
“Why not join a team that has been to the AFC championship the last two years?” Mason said. “After a while, it became a no-brainer.”
Not that it was a sure thing in Ryan’s eyes. The Jets had Mason in for a visit Thursday and were prepared to sign him. Mason went home and went over his options with his family. Meanwhile, Ryan acknowledged that Mason would likely have to leave money on the table if he signed with New York.
“I had to keep him on his toes, you know?” Mason said, laughing. “Nah, I’m just playing. This is an opportunity.”
On Saturday, Ryan called Mason and was talking to him on the phone about joining the Jets while general manager Mike Tannenbaum kept trying to reach him – to tell him to speak to the receiver to try to persuade him to come to New York.
“You know how the phone goes, `beep, beep, beep, beep?’” Ryan said. “It did that like 50 times and I’m not looking down to see who it is. … Finally, I hang up and then sure enough, I get a call immediately after and I’m like, `Will you guys just cut it out? We got him. He said he’s going to call us.’”
Mason did make that call, and the Jets were ecstatic. He’ll join Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress in New York’s revamped receiving corps.
“I’ve been in it going on 15 years now and the funds weren’t necessarily No. 1 on my list,” Mason said. “No. 1 on my list was to win, and win quickly. So, there were other offers from other places, but this was the best fit for me.”
Even though it meant not being home as much for his daughter and son, who got used to him being around a lot.
“It was still hard for them to see me walk out that door,” Mason said. “That’s going to continue to weigh on me a little bit as I continue to go, but I know deep down, they’re very supportive of what I’m trying to accomplish and like I said, the only thing I want to accomplish now is winning the Super Bowl.”
Mason still clearly has a lot left after catching 61 passes for 802 yards and seven touchdowns last season, but he was cut by the Ravens on July 28. Baltimore was interested in bringing Mason back at a lower salary, but the Ravens had to compete with the Jets and Titans.
“Was I blindsided? Yeah, I was,” Mason said. “When you’re blindsided, you’re upset about it. But, I had my moment and after that, I understood. Man, it’s the business of football.”
He added that he holds no grudges against the Ravens and praised the fans in Baltimore for supporting him during his time there. Mason just acknowledged that it was simply time for him to move on.
And, he had a feeling he would land with the Jets after sitting down with Ryan at the team’s facility.
“I felt like I was in college again,” he said with a laugh. “When you have someone sitting across from you that understands or knows your work and knows you can play this game and still play it at a high level and respects that, that means a lot. … That’s all it took.”
Mason arrived on the field Sunday near the middle of New York’s afternoon practice wearing a gray long-sleeve Jets T-shirt and green shorts. He shook the hands of both Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson, high-fived a few of his new teammates and then stood next to Holmes, who pointed things out about the offense.
Mason anticipates being able to practice for the first time Monday and thinks he’ll be able to pick the offense up quickly because it is a similar system to that run by Baltimore.
“Had I not taken two flights in the last four days, I probably could’ve been out there today,” he said.
Mason has 924 catches – 12th-most in NFL history – for 11,891 yards and 66 touchdowns in a consistently productive career. He briefly retired before training camp two years ago, but returned and appeared rejuvenated. He caught 73 passes – the eighth time in his career he had at least that many receptions – and posted his eighth 1,000-yard receiving season before another solid performance a year ago.
He’ll be wearing his familiar No. 85 after rookie Jeremy Kerley, the Jets’ fifth-round draft pick, gave it up before Mason even signed and took No. 11 instead.
“It’s something out of respect for a veteran in the game,” Kerley said, “and Derrick Mason is obviously a great football player, so he deserves the number. It’s his number.”
Mason understands that Holmes is Sanchez’s go-guy and Burress will serve as the big goal-line presence, and that all suits him just fine.
“We will mesh, and mesh quickly,” Mason said. “I’m coming into a situation that’s tailor-made for me.”
Jets fans: will the trio of Burress, Holmes and Mason get it done? Sound off in the comments below…
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