McNair, Mason reunite in Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS -- With a wink, a nod or some other telling body language, Steve McNair and Derrick Mason have often communicated effectively on the football field without speaking. It's the series of non-verbal cues that a veteran quarterback is capable of exchanging with a wide receiver when they've shared a huddle for several years.

Now that the Baltimore Ravens have officially traded a fourth-round draft pick to the Tennessee Titans for McNair and signed him to a five-year contract that includes an $11 million signing bonus, it reunites the quarterback with his former go-to receiver.

In eight seasons playing with McNair, Mason caught more touchdown passes (29) than the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback had thrown to any other target.

"I think when you play with a quarterback for so long in certain situations in games you know and he knows what the other person is going to do," said Mason, who signed with Baltimore last year. "That's what we had for eight years is that repetition and confidence where you run certain routes against certain defenses and certain players. We have that down and I think it will be good for us."

Mason made the Pro Bowl twice while playing with McNair, catching 453 career passes. In their final season playing together in Tennessee in 2004, Mason registered 96 receptions to lead all NFL wide receivers and produced seven touchdowns.

"I think once you have that chemistry and once you have that mindset with another guy, I don't think that changes," McNair said. "I don't think it diminishes over a couple years time. I think me and Derrick will hit it off fine, but, as a quarterback, you want to make the other guys better, too."

In Baltimore, McNair will be able to hand the football off to running backs Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson as well as throw downfield to receivers Mark Clayton and Mason along with former Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.

And partly because McNair and Mason are longtime friends, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel is confident that the 2003 NFL Co-Most Valuable Player will make a smooth transition into the Ravens' offense.

"That makes it easier," Fassel said. "They can talk and Derrick can be a friend to him. This can sometimes be such a cold, hard business. You want to look at a friendly face and go to dinner and talk."

During Mason's final four seasons in Nashville, Tenn., he became the first player in Titans history to produce four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving campaigns with 1,128 in 2001, 1,012 in 2002, 1,303 in 2003 and 1,168 in 2004.

"I think once Steve gets that route tree down, it's like riding a bike," Mason said. "All of a sudden you switch teams and I don't think you lose anything. .. To play with a guy who knows what you've been through and knows what kind of person you are, it's always good to have that kind of person getting you the ball."

NOTES: Safety Ed Reed participated in all team drills for the first time this week. … Center Mike Flynn (knee) sat out of workouts along with wide receiver Clarence Moore, who underwent surgery after the season for a sports hernia and isn't expected to practice again until training camp. ... Linebacker Dan Cody, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered on the first day of training camp last year, practiced without incident.
 

Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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