I’m not a professional athlete. I don’t think I’ll have the luxury to be able to retire in my 30’s unless the lottery gods have mercy on me. That being said, I don’t know too many jobs where you can retire and then come back when you want to. The reason I write this is not to compare Derrick Mason to Brett Favre, but to try and see what motivation, if any, he had to leave and come back. It couldn’t be to avoid training camp, which I believe is why Lord Favre isn’t coming back, yet.
I saw an article on PFT about what he said when he came back to his first practice. Some of the things he said just didn’t really seem right. For example, regarding his contract he said: “It wasn’t a ploy or anything contractual…It was a decision I made from the heart.” Okay, I can buy that only to an extent. He was emotionally drained from the death of a close friend in Steve McNair, and some family issues he was having. He didn’t go into the issues, but I know that anything close to the vest like family can cause a man to make some radical decisions.
Mason is 35, and although he’s good, he’s been plagued by shoulder issues the past few years. Let’s face it, he’s no T.O. when it comes to his physical condition and despite that I think he’s probably the most reliable (and at this point the best) option the Ravens have at receiver. Although he claims it’s not contract related, he was trying to get a contract extension last season. The Ravens didn’t budge on that and you can’t tell me that didn’t factor in a little bit in his decision to retire. With a contract extension (well most of them) comes a nice signing bonus that’s guaranteed. That’d be a nice little security blanket for the future after football. Lately it’s been coming out that some athletes aren’t quite as successful as they’d like us to think they are in their ventures outside of sports (see Lenny Dykstra, Bernie Kosar, Ryan Leaf, etc.). One nice guaranteed payday would be nice to have to invest and to try to grow.
Derrick will play this last year of his contract and make $3 million. That’s not too bad if you ask me. I’m sure everyone reading this would go through training camp, pre-season, and 16 weeks of work to earn that kind of money. Hell, most of the people reading this would be able to retire and live a nice life after that. Might even be able to hook Peanut and ‘em up a little bit too with that kind of change. I’m not making light of the factors for his decision. He’s at the age where most players at a position not named franchise quarterback are playing an extremely limited role on any team. He still plays at a high level, but he can’t convince me that had he not gotten the extension he was seeking he would’ve retired.
Steve McNair’s death was tragic. But it happened after he retired. If anything, that’d make me keep playing a little longer. And it should impact my decisions and thinking in reference to the time I spend with my family, friends, and community. It would make me question my lifestyle more than my career. Had Steve died on the field, then that sentiment would hold more weight than it currently does to me. The last quote he made is what makes me hope and pray that he’s not going to become Brett Favre lite: “This season is vey important to me and this team. I’m going to worry about next year when next year comes. I’ve got too many problems today to worry about tomorrow.” This season he wants to just play football and win a championship.
If that doesn’t say we’re going to play the retirement game next year, I don’t know what does. Yes this season is very important to him, but that’s because he has to play at the top of his game to accomplish the stated goal of winning a championship, and the unstated goal of acquiring a new contract. But hey, I’m not in his ear or his circle. I’m just a blogger who is trying to offer another take on this story. I just don’t buy that the contract issue didn’t heavily impact his decision to retire. No athlete wants to retire, especially when they think they can still play at a high level. Jerry Rice didn’t want to retire until it was evident that he couldn’t be Jerry Rice anymore. T.O. probably won’t retire when teams and fans think he should, and he doesn’t have to because he’s still so dangerous on the field. As long as some team is willing to reach into their purse and hand money to athletes, they will always think they can play. Derrick Mason is no exception to that trend, and he shouldn’t be. I just hope it doesn’t take further damage to his body to convince him to move past the game he obviously loves.