Rex Ryan is no Bill Belichick, and Mark Sanchez is no Tom Brady. But that didn’t stop Derrick Mason from wanting to run through a green-and-white brick wall for Ryan so he could catch passes from Sanchez.
The memory of the coach Ryan was in Baltimore and the vision of the player Sanchez soon can be were instrumental in Mason’s decision to leave the Ravens and chase that elusive Super Bowl ring with the Jets.
Maybe Mason would have stayed in Baltimore with John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco if the Ravens hadn’t pursued Malcom Floyd before running back to Mason. Nevertheless, Mason’s defection should serve notice around the NFL that the Ryan-Sanchez team will be tantamount to great white sharks in the free agent waters of tomorrow.
Listen to Mason on Sanchez: “He’s one of those young quarterbacks that’s going to be one of the better ones, in the top two or three in the league, in a few years.”
Listen to Mason on Ryan, the Jets head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator: “Rex came out always smiling. It seemed like he always had fun, even when things weren’t going right. Even four, five years ago, when we had injuries across the board on defense, he still managed to keep the guys together, and come out with a smile on his face.”
Listen to Mason compare Sanchez with Joe Flacco: “I think Sanchez is a little more vocal than Joe in his third year. I think both of ‘em will end up being great leaders of their team. Sanchez is showing it right now, being very vocal, taking control of the offense, taking control of the huddle, in a classroom. Joe is a little quieter, but he still commands that respect. I think he does it more by his play, and I played with a guy like that, Steve McNair. He didn’t have to talk much, but he went out there and he gave it his all, and that’s how he led, and I think Joe is the same way. So, hopefully, Mark could make that same progression that Joe made in his third year.
“What you do during the season is great, but once you get in a playoff game and you win some big games — he’s won some in the playoffs — then you start to gain that confidence, and I think he’s gaining it.”
Listen to Mason explain why players play for Ryan: “He treats you with respect, and he’s up-front and honest with you. And he let the guys be themselves. I think that’s what a lot of coaches tend to do, is kind of not let the player be himself.”
Mason, 37, is in the fourth quarter of his career. And yet, it is the fourth quarter of NFL Sundays and Monday nights he relishes, even now. That’s he can see defensive backs begin to let up, when their will begins to break.
“They want to play head games, and they want to see if they can rough you up a little bit ... jam you, you know, after the whistle, grabbing you, pulling you ... and if you continue to go at ‘em? Eventually, they’ll stop,” Mason said. “A majority of them will stop. There are a few — and luckily I play with two of ‘em — that’ll keep on coming at you. But a lot of DBs in this league, if you continue to come at ‘em for three or four quarters, they’re going to stop.”
Mason does not initiate trash talk, but will respond if baited. The biggest trash-talker he has encountered?
“Sam Madison,” Mason said with a chuckle. “I swear, that guy talked all game. He didn’t stop. He didn’t care if he got beat — it didn’t matter. He never shut up. But it was fun, it was fun.”
The funniest line came from Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
“He told me I’m going to collect my AARP card,” Mason said, and laughed.
Mason lifted more over the offseason to better endure the inevitable pounding.
“I’ve been blessed, honestly,” he said. “I haven’t had any injuries to my lower extremities, and I think that’s what kind of derails players, especially in my position.”
His new work environment has Mason, arguably a slight upgrade over Jerricho Cotchery, feeling forever young.
“Soon as I stepped into this building, you just felt the energy, the youthfulness, a team that I believe that’s on a destiny,” he said.
Listen to Mason — 924 catches, 11,891 yards and 66 TDs later — on Mason: “The guy works extremely hard. ... He’s never going to quit ... an excellent route-runner, very reliable pass catcher.
“And when you need him, he’s there.”
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Jets Mason Loves Being On Of The Gang gives high praise to Sanchez
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