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As the Ravens’ 2010 season comes to an end, it’s natural for veterans to consider their futures.
Head Coach John Harbaugh hopes retirement is not part of wideout Derrick Mason and center Matt Birk’s considerations.
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“I’m sure when they get to this stage, guys always have to think about that every year,” Harbaugh said Monday, two days after the Ravens’ 31-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they don’t. I think we’re a better team with both those two guys, and my guess is they have a couple years left. It’ll be a family decision for them probably, but those are staples of our team right now.
“We can replace everybody, from the owner through the coach through the senior vice president of public relations. We’re all replaceable, and we would obviously move on if anybody decided not to play anymore, but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for those two guys.”
Mason expressed a desire to retire in July of 2009, but ended up returning to the Ravens that season. Last summer, the 14-year veteran signed a two-year contract.
Mason, who caught only one pass for 11 yards in the playoffs, declined to put a timetable on his decision and left his status open.
“I’ve had fun the last 14 years,” said Mason. “After this, we’ll just see what happens. I have some business I need to take care of physically. Once I take care of those things physically, be with the kids, then I’ll start thinking about what I’m going to do next year.”
Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler, took a similar approach to Mason. The 13-year veteran said he is looking forward to re-evaluating his future with his wife, Adrianna, and five children.
“I think I’ll just go home and see how I feel for the next few weeks,” said Birk, who dealt with a knee injury as the season waned. “It’s not something you sit down and say, ‘I’ll take 30 minutes and make a decision.’ You just go by what you feel. This is a job, but you can’t just go through the motions.
“Just speaking for me, it’s 11 ½ months out of the year. You don’t take three months off and do nothing.”
Harbaugh was more confident that safety Ed Reed, another player who has contemplated retirement in the past, will return.
Reed has a nagging nerve impingement in his neck, which has bothered him for the better part of two years. In addition, Reed spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing hip surgery last May.
“I’m very impressed and proud of Ed Reed,” Harbaugh said. “Always have been, but even more so this year than ever. But I’ve seen him say publicly where he plans on playing for as long as he can, and he’s told me – I don’t think he’d mind me saying this – he wants to play football.
“Ed’s got a chance this offseason, I think, to be healthier than he’s ever been going into a season, because I don’t think he has anything major – that I’m aware of right now – any major injuries. He’s got some things he’s got to work through, but I think he’s going to have a full year of offseason conditioning and he’s really excited about that. I don’t want to speak for him, he’ll have to tell you all that, but I think Ed’s going to have a great year next year.”