I’m sure that every Baltimore Ravens fan was shocked when they read the headline around 6 PM last night that Mason had decided to hang up his cleats. And since that time the newspapers, blogs, and talk radio shows have been buzzing about this latest situation and weather Mason has truly retired or not.

The problem that exists here is that this is not just a simple story of an athlete who tried to return from injury and simply has had enough and decided to call it a career. There are too many holes and too many inconsistencies to sort through.

Sure it’s true that Derrick Mason displayed a gritty determination finishing the 2008 season with shoulder trouble and had surgery to repair it during the off-season. I had my doubts if he would be ready for training camp and depending on who you talk to reports varied on the subject too. Even Mason himself was pretty cryptic but made some kind of Superman analogy to get himself off the hook.

Lest I forget his call for a new contract extension. He was entering the final year of a five year deal and was very public about wanting an the added security and money. In a way I guess you couldn’t blame him being the top target for young Flacco and his consistency is often under appreciated even in national circles. But to franchise’s defense when he made that statement the team had to decide which if this year’s free agents they would retain; Scott or Lewis; Brown or Suggs? Mason was still under contract and wasn’t a priority.

Then his sporadic appearances during OTA’s in which he worked in the weight room after his surgery. Coach Harbaugh spoke like he new Mase would be ready. Mason didn’t sound so enthused (a word he’s used several times in the past few days) and said he MIGHT be ready for the season opener.

Then throw in the unfortunate events of the past week that involved one of his closest teammates, Steve McNair. Mason spoke this past Saturday at his friends funeral and no doubt emotions have been high the past few days.

Then the announcement is made on Monday. What’s strange is how the announcement was made. It appeared on a website called that just happens to be owned by his agent, Lamont Smith. There was no announcement from the Ravens because they didn’t know about it!

His teammates were puzzled. They had no idea.

The top brass had no clue. In fact, Senior VP, Kevin Byrne stated that Mason had not yet filed a letter stating his intentions to the league.

Then Mason laid out the final piece to this now odd scenario. That he would not be giving any interviews for two weeks.

Come on Derrick!

I’d at least have more respect for you if you just resumed your chirping about a new deal and just held out like every other decent ball player.

But no, you had to go the Bret Favre route.

I’m actually surprised more players haven’t tried this before or since as a way to get what you want.

If Mason wanted to really retire he would do it the right way. The fans have seen it before with McNair and Jonathan Ogden after him. We know how it works. You sit in front of the ESPN cameras with Ozzie at your left and Bischotti at your right. Everyone says a few words and we set a date for your entry into the Ring of Honor. Pretty simple.

So if he doesn’t really want to retire what’s he trying to do?
He’s gaining leverage and time.

It’s no secret that the veterans hated John Harbaugh’s new approach to training camp. Oh, writers gushed at the harder hitting and the discipline but those players that have been around for years were not fond of it. They need to save their bodies as much as they can and they don’t want to blow a hammy on a tip drill in August.

Mason’s still recovering from surgery and has been working out at the team’s facility. In fact he was spotted there two hours before the announcement went public!

So he can work out on his own and stay in shape all the while leaving the team to call his bluff. Do you really want to make a deal for Anquan Boldin? Then do it I don’t care. Do you really want Brandon Marshall? Do it because “I’ve made enough money”?

Mason knows that he’s an important piece to the Ravens championship aspirations and he wants to be treated that way, which is really what this all comes down to. Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are your starters now. Good luck with that.

To often football players talk about respect and he wants to be shown it with the checkbook and now he has the team’s full attention. Just two weeks before camp is set to open and their #1 receiver is out.

He wants to be talked to. He wants to be wooed. He wants to be paid. He wants to be appreciated.

Fans seem to forget his tirade in 2006 when he wasn’t getting the majority of the passes coming his way. He complained, pretty loudly in fact that he should be getting targeted more. It seems like it’s happening again, just in a different manner.

A bit more passive-aggressive. But will it be effective?

It’s now Baltimore’s call.

Do they call Mason’s bluff? Perhaps look to make a deal, or take Mason’s money and sign Marvin Harrison maybe. Or do they sit down behind closed doors and look to give Mason what he wants. An extension and the respect he feels he deserves.

Or maybe I’m way off on this. Maybe Mason is just a 35 year old coming off of shoulder surgery who just buried a close friend and he’s emotional and needs time to think. He’s certainly earned the right to retire if he wants to.

I think we find out more by Thursday after the Suggs saga reaches its conclusion and the team can truly see what cash they have left for 2009.

Only one thing is clear this isn’t over yet.