Derrick Mason played for the Tennessee Titans from 1997-2004, then for the Ravens from 2005-2010. He finished his career with 943 catches and 12,061 receiving yards.
As an opponent, I respected him. I didn't like him, but I respected him because he was one of the great players in the NFL and he always played at a high level. But I think once I became his teammate, I not only respected him as a player but as a person and genuinely liked him as a person.
There was never a time where Ray and I bumped heads. Because I knew that me coming to Baltimore, that was his team. That was his city. My thing was come in here and be the leader for the offense. But what he did, he did for the whole team.
If the game wasn't going quite the way that we all thought it should be going, especially in Joe Flacco's first year, Ray would do what he needed to do to get the offense going every once in a while -- just with his presence and his leadership. He was a guy who thought two or three steps ahead, and he always put himself in the perfect position to make a play -- whether it be a tackle, a sack or an interception. He had that ability to always be at the right place at the right time.
I think it helped Joe during his rookie year, not thinking he had to put the team on his back. It allowed Joe to mature into the role that he became comfortable with. And then eventually he became the leader I think the team wanted him to be. But there was no rush for the organization, or for Joe to be that leader, because there were a bunch of them on that team. But more importantly, there was Ray Lewis on that team.