It took time for Derrick Mason to catch on as a wide receiver. Once he did, though, he caught more passes than many others.
Mason retired Monday and ended a 15-year career just shy of the top 10 in all-time NFL receptions.
His 943 career catches ranks 11th on the career list and puts him ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famers such as Art Monk, Steve Largent, James Lofton and Charlie Joiner. He also is 19th on the all-time receiving yards list with 12,061.
The 38-year-old officially retired as a Baltimore Raven, but he entered the league and rose to prominence as a member of the Tennessee Oilers/Titans. He set a league record that still stands with 2,690 combined yards (1,132 on kickoff returns, 895 receiving, 662 on punt returns and one rushing) in 2000, when the Titans went a league-best 13-3 in the regular season.
"The decision wasn't hard to retire, and the decision where to retire was just as easy," Mason said, according to NFL.com. "Because like I said, my heart was here, it never left. My body left but my heart stayed right in these rooms."
The Titans had no official comment on Mason's retirement.
The Oilers drafted him in the fourth round (98th overall) in 1997 and three months later relocated from Houston. He was primarily a return specialist his first three seasons.
He was 27 when he recorded his first 1,000-yard season as a receiver with Tennessee in 2001. That was the first of five straight and eight in a span of nine seasons.
He led the Titans in receiving every year from 2001 through 2004. The team waived him in a salary cap move that season, and he signed with Baltimore, which also added cornerback Samari Rolle that year and quarterback Steve McNair the following one.
Mason retired briefly in July 2009 following McNair’s murder but reconsidered and topped 1,000 yards receiving for the final time that season.
He is fifth on the Titans’ all-time list with 453 career receptions. He added 471 in six seasons with the Ravens and two last fall, when he spent time with both the New York Jets and Houston.
He is Baltimore’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.
"Over the 16 years, 17 years that we've been here, we've signed lot of free agents, a lot of them," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But I don't know if there is any one player over the span of their career that did more for this organization than Derrick Mason did."