FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Derrick Mason got dumped over the phone this summer.
The wide receiver was about to start training camp with the Baltimore Ravens in late-July when he received a surprising call from general manager Ozzie Newsome.
“He told me they were going to release me,” said Mason, who was home at the time in Nashville, Tenn. “He wanted me to come up there and talk with him, and that’s what I did. He said what he had to say and the reasons why, and you have to respect it.
“Did I like it? No, not necessarily, because it came out of left field, but you respect it and the quicker you can kind of pick yourself up and move on, the better.”
For a guy who had been one of the NFL’s most consistent wide receivers during a highly productive career, the 37-year-old Mason was suddenly out of a job. Unemployment lasted about a week and a half, until the New York Jets and old friend Rex Ryan came calling, signing Mason to a two-year deal on Aug. 7.
Mason is heading back to Baltimore this weekend to take on his former team when the Jets (2-1) and Ravens (2-1) square off Sunday night.
“Obviously, they didn’t need my services any longer,” Mason said. “I think I was at peace with it because I knew deep down in my heart, I gave them all that I had. The way I played, no one can question whether I gave 100 percent or not. So when I left that building, I was OK because I knew leaving that building, I still had a lot of football in me. So they had a decision to make and they made it, and luckily Rex wanted me and I was more than happy to come here.”
Mason was among four veterans the Ravens cut — along with Willis McGahee, Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg — in a salary cap move just after the NFL lockout was lifted. It was a decision that Mason said “blindsided” him when it happened.
“We really had no choice, cap-wise,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “As it worked out, a couple of weeks later, we had the opportunity to possibly bring him back, but he decided to go with the Jets, so that’s what happened.”
Mason, who caught 61 passes for 802 yards and seven touchdowns last season, toyed with the idea of going back to Tennessee, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career. He also could’ve gone back to the Ravens at a lower salary.
“I don’t think you could try to convince him at that period,” former Ravens teammate Ray Lewis said, “because from that point, the organization had kind of made their mindset that they were going to move on.”
And, Mason chose to head to New York and play for Ryan, with the hope that he could win a Super Bowl ring.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie: I was torn between going back to Baltimore and coming here to the Jets because I had been there for so long and that was family to me,” Mason said. “But they made a business decision and I had to make a business decision.”
Both Mason and the Ravens insist there is no bitterness harbored because of the decision. Mason also says he has moved on, but was well aware that he’d see his former team early in the season as a member of the Jets.
“I didn’t necessarily look at the schedule and say, ‘I can’t wait until the Baltimore game,'” Mason said. “We had three games before that, so I was hoping that we could be 3-0. But we’re 2-1 and with another opportunity to win a football game. So we are going to go down there as a team and it will be kind of bittersweet in a sense. But when that coin is tossed and that ball is kicked off, I know I’ve got a job to do.”
When he signed with the Jets, Mason acknowledged that it would be tough to leave his two children back home in Nashville, but he goes back to see them every week when the team has an off day.
He’ll join Ryan, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard as former Ravens making their homecoming Sunday.
“Yeah, I think Bart started crying earlier today, honestly,” Mason said with a big grin. “I really think he did. He got real emotional today. When we were talking about it, Bart got real emotional today and I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ You’ve been out of there, what, two, three years now? Man, come on. I don’t understand the guy. I think I saw Jimmy as well tearing up a little bit talking about the old days. I’m like, ‘Man, get over it guys, move on.'”
Mason said it will be “special” but insists it won’t be an emotional moment when he walks through the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium. And he promises he won’t get nostalgic or make a wrong turn to the home locker room.
“It happened in Tennessee, and it’s going to happen again where I’ve got to go down to Baltimore,” he said. “There’s no emotions to it. I just understand that going down there, I can’t get distracted. I’ve got to go down there intent on playing good football and trying to do what I can to help the Jets to victory.”
Notes: QB Mark Sanchez said his broken nose is “feeling good,” but was sporting a black and blue mark under his right eye, the result of the sack by Oakland’s Kamerion Wimbley last Sunday that caused the injury. … Mason raved about Ravens S Ed Reed, his former teammate, calling him the best safety who has ever played the game. “It’s almost freakish the things that he can do out there on the field,” he said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.