NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Derrick Mason came to the Jets expecting to be a major contributor for what he hoped would be a Super Bowl run to cap a terrific career.
Instead, his role was diminished after just five weeks and the veteran wide receiver was sent packing to Houston when the Jets completed a trade with the Texans on Wednesday for an undisclosed conditional draft pick.
“Things didn’t work out on the field with Derrick,” Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum explained. “With that said, we were committed to trying to make it work and get him to play better on the field at a level that he was accustomed to and what we were expecting.”
Fellow wide receiver Plaxico Burress appeared to have an issue with the company line.
“My production hasn’t been all that great either,” Burress said yesterday. “Santonio’s production hasn’t been all that great either. So you can’t just point at one guy. You can’t just say it was his production.”
Mason made some critical comments two weeks ago, saying the team had “cracks” that needed to be fixed. Along with Burress and Santonio Holmes, he was also mentioned in a Daily News report last Sunday that said the wide receivers had met with head coach Rex Ryan individually during the last few weeks to complain about Brian Schottenheimer’s system.
All three denied the report, as did Ryan – and the team took the rare step of issuing a statement to also say it was untrue.
Ryan had what he called “a private conversation” with Mason last week, but both he and Tannenbaum reiterated that Mason’s locker room comments did not play into their decisions.
“Derrick happened to be the guy that was let go,” said Burress. “There’s been guys shuffled in and out for the last five weeks. When you’re a guy like Derrick Mason who wears what he thinks on his sleeve and speaks his mind, whatever people want to say about you, he kind of gets to be ‘that guy.’”
Mason acknowledged he was surprised by the deal, but expects to be a significant contributor for the Texans – and resume his quest for a ring.
“I’m going to enjoy this run that we’re going to go on,” he said outside the Texans’ locker room late Wednesday. “It’s going to be a nice run. Hopefully, it’ll end up in Indy. I’m looking forward to that.”
Tannenbaum said he received a call from the Texans on Tuesday inquiring about Mason’s availability, and the teams agreed to a deal later that night – a day after Ryan said the wide receiver was “going to still be a part of what we do.” If Houston hadn’t called, Tannenbaum said, Mason would still be a member of the Jets.
“He would have been here for the balance of the season,” Tannenbaum said. “He has a contract for next year. The fact that Rex knew him was one of the reasons we went after him.”
The move, reportedly for a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft, comes with the Jets (2-3) in the midst of a three-game losing streak and dealing with lots of criticism directed at quarterback Mark Sanchez, Schottenheimer and the rest of the offense.
“At times, I think our offense has looked productive, efficient,” Tannenbaum said. “At other times, we’ve all seen it, it hasn’t been to the level that we hope or expect. With that said, I believe in the guys in the locker room.”
He and Ryan also denied that they were sending a message to the team by letting Mason go this early.
“It’s not a wakeup call to me,” Burress said. “It’s not the first time that it’s happened. I’ve been around this business for a long time and I’ve seen some of the best come and go. And we’ll keep on playing football.”
Mason signed with the team in August to high expectations, with Ryan – who was with him in Baltimore for several years – predicting at least 80 catches for him as the No. 3 receiver behind Burress and Holmes. But he struggled early with 13 receptions for 115 yards, and was benched in favor of rookie Jeremy Kerley in New York’s 30-21 loss at New England on Sunday.
“I can’t worry about what happened in New York,” Mason said. “I enjoyed my two months there, if it was that. I enjoyed Rex, I’ve known Rex for a long time. But things just don’t last sometimes. You want one thought as an organization, and then you come out with another. I think it was a win-win for everybody. I’m not upset.”
Ryan repeatedly said he has “a ton of respect for Derrick,” but added that the team simply couldn’t look past the development of Kerley, a fifth-round pick out of TCU.
“It’s a part of the business,” Kerley said. “I wish him the best of luck. He’s a great player, and he’ll be great other places. I’m just glad I could step up and be the man in the third spot.”
The deal ended a quick stint in New York for the 37-year-old Mason, who spent the last six seasons with Baltimore. He signed a two-year deal with the Jets in early August, choosing them over a return with the Ravens or the Tennessee Titans. He had been released by Baltimore before training camp and was expected to fill the spot of the departed Jerricho Cotchery.
But it appeared he wasn’t picking up the offense as quickly as the team expected. Still, Mason insisted that his football skills haven’t diminished.
“The numbers may have,” he said, “but if you watch me, week in and week out, it’s the same guy.”
Mason acknowledged when he signed with New York that it would be tough to leave his two children back home in Nashville. He flew back home every week when the team had an off day – an agreement the team made with Mason when they signed him.
Mason didn’t practice with the Texans on Wednesday, but coach Gary Kubiak said he still might play.
“He’s played for a few friends of mine, so I know what he knows, terminology-wise,” Kubiak said. “I’ve got to see how quick I can get him ready to help us in this game. He could (play Sunday), but let me spend a day or two with him and see where he’s at, and how much of our stuff overlaps with what he’s been doing. Hopefully, that will happen.”
With his 7-yard catch last Sunday, Mason became the 18th player in NFL history to reach 12,000 yards receiving. He can help the Texans’ offense while Andre Johnson recovers from a right hamstring injury. Coincidentally, if he plays this Sunday for the Texans, Mason’s first game will be back in Baltimore.
“We had a chance to go get a guy who still runs very well, even though he’s played a long time in this league,” Kubiak said. “He’s been very effective in this league, and we feel like we can catch him up really fast. That was a big key.”
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