The Ravens recently unveiled a fan-voted 25th anniversary all-time team on their website, and more than 8,000 fan votes decided which players were selected. There were a few notable names left off the list, but arguably the biggest omission was former wide receiver Derrick Mason — and Baltimore’s all-time leading receiver wasn’t happy when he found out he did not make the list.
Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith were the two receivers selected by fans. Both players only played three seasons with the Ravens. Boldin played in Baltimore from 2010-2012, helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII with 22 receptions for 380 yards and four touchdowns during that playoff run. Smith was a Raven from 2014-2016, catching 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns during his first and best season in Baltimore.
“I was a little bit perturbed about it to say the least,” Mason said on Glenn Clark Radio July 14. “I guess why I was so irritated by it was because the Ravens … chose to put it on their website, and to me that means you’re validating what 8,000 people are saying when, in fact, you know it’s not true.”
Mason spent six seasons as a Raven (2005-2010), and his 5,777 receiving yards are the most in franchise history. He posted more than 1,000 yards in four of the six seasons he spent in Baltimore. He finished his career with 12,061 receiving yards, No. 27 on the all-time list. Mason started his career with the Tennessee Titans, for whom he played from 1997-2004. He finished his career in 2011, splitting time between the Houston Texans and New York Jets.
While Mason has respect for Boldin and Smith, he stands firm in his belief that the fans got it wrong. He brought up his numbers, but also the idea that he set the standard for what it means to play like a Raven. He mentioned his six-catch performance on the road against the Dallas Cowboys in December 2008.
“They played really good football in Baltimore, I’m not taking anything away from those guys at all,” Mason said. “But when it’s all said and done, the numbers, the play, what I gave for that organization, I didn’t miss a game when guys were falling by the wayside. I had a broken scapula [in 2008] and still played 10 games with a broken scapula.”
Mason brought that mindset with him when he signed with the Ravens as a free agent in 2005. He said that the Ravens and Titans organizations were similar, which helped him with the transition. Both teams had run-first offenses in the early 2000s; the Titans were led by running back Eddie George, while Baltimore had running back Jamal Lewis. Mason said both organizations also had similar values, which helped him settle into his new home.
“The Titans and Baltimore had so much I common I think the fabric and the foundation of both of those organizations were basically the same,” Mason said. “… What Tennessee preached was the same thing Baltimore preached: hard-nosed defense, we’re going to run the football and make plays when we need to make plays in the passing game.”
Mason believes the all-time team reflected a recently bias in the fan vote and that the mid-to-late 2000s teams aren’t remembered as well because none of those squads won a championship. Still, Mason was part of some successful teams in Baltimore. In 2006, the Ravens went 13-3. In 2008, they went to the AFC championship game. In 2010, they finished 12-4. But none of Mason’s teams reached the Super Bowl.
“People don’t remember the 2005-2010 teams when we grind and grind and still didn’t win a Super Bowl.” Mason said. “Unfortunately, that’s the sad part about sports. They don’t remember the people who put the grind in. They remember it if you win a championship, but if you don’t win a championship they won’t remember.”
One of the other notable omissions was former quarterback Joe Flacco. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, who put together a record-setting season in 2019, was the quarterback chosen over Flacco, who led the Ravens to their second Super Bowl championship in 2012. Flacco is the Ravens’ all-time leading passer with 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns.
In the 2012 postseason, Flacco threw for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. He led the Ravens to three straight victories away from M&T Bank Stadium, including an upset victory against the 13-3, Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
“Jackson’s going to be tremendous. I loved watching him last year,” Mason said. “… But you cannot tell me that Joe shouldn’t have been on that team for now. Maybe in 10 years when you do the list again Jackson can get on it, but there’s no way that Joe Flacco should’ve been left off that. The guy did something not many quarterbacks in this league are able to do.”
While Mason is upset with the list, he doesn’t hold any grudges with the organization. He doesn’t believe head coach John Harbaugh or owner Steve Bisciotti had anything to do with it and still respects both of them.
“That organization made my transition [from] Nashville seamless for me. They accepted my play, they accepted my personality, so I have nothing but the utmost respect to that organization,” Mason said. “… If you put that list in front of John Harbaugh he’d probably look at it and say someone’s missing.”
For more from Mason, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox