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Ogden ends illustrious 12-year career with Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There was no crying, no second-guessing and absolutely no remorse. Jonathan Ogden wore a broad, toothy smile Thursday as the left tackle announced his retirement after a 12-year career in which he established himself as one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history.

Ogden was selected to play in 11 Pro Bowls, and he probably would have made it an even dozen had he opted to return for another season with the Baltimore Ravens. But because he couldn't operate at peak efficiency with a hyperextended left big toe, the decision to call it a career was relatively easy.

"When you play football for as long as I have, it's really difficult to know injuries just won't let you play at the level that you all and myself expect me to play," the 33-year-old Ogden said in a packed auditorium that included at least 15 of his former teammates.

"Could I have still gone out there and played? Yes, probably, and still done an adequate job," Ogden said. "But in my mind, I wouldn't have been helping the team as much as I needed to. And it wouldn't have been good for me."

Ogden has always been a perfectionist, but the Ravens would have been happy to have him back at less than 100 percent. Because even then, Ogden would still be better than almost everyone else at opening up running lanes and protecting the quarterback.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who made Ogden the team's first-ever draft pick in 1996, said, "I've had the opportunity to be in this league for over 30 years, and I've had a chance to witness a lot of very good football players. But in my humble opinion, there's not a player I've seen in those 30 years that played their position as well as Jonathan Ogden played his."

Former Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo, who lined up next to Ogden for seven years, said, "What Ray Lewis and Junior Seau are to linebackers, what Jerry Rice is to wide receivers, Jonathan Ogden is to offensive linemen."

Ogden's retirement comes during an offseason in which stars such Brett Favre, Michael Strahan and Warren Sapp also stepped aside. Asked his thoughts about potentially being part of a memorable Hall of Fame class in 2013, Ogden said, "Honestly, just to be mentioned in that whole discussion is truly an honor for me."

But playing for a place in the Hall of Fame was never his objective.

"I would just like to be remembered as a guy who was respected by everybody," Ogden said. "We don't have the stats like at every other position, so it's more about how people respect you. I just wanted to be one of the most respected linemen that played the game. And I think I have done that."

Few defensive ends relished going up against the 6-foot-9, 345-pound Ogden, who used his size and uncanny quickness to fend off any would-be tackler. He also had excellent technique, whether pushing downfield to make a block or stepping back to form a pocket around the quarterback.

Now with the Ravens, Trevor Pryce faced Ogden while with the Denver Broncos. "I only played against Jonathan once, and that was more than enough. I think I had a half-tackle and didn't get near the quarterback," Pryce said. "The game came effortless to him. ... He was the best I ever played against."

Ogden wasn't the stereotypical offensive lineman. He regularly read books, didn't drive fancy cars and was notoriously slow to pick up a check at a restaurant.

"You remember him reading vampire books, asking us to pay for him when we went to the movies. Everyone knows what type of player he is, but you remember the stuff in the locker room," said Mulitalo, who came in from Detroit to be with Ogden at his retirement.

The first draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens franchise, in 1996, Jonathan Ogden was an anchor of the team for 12 seasons.

A master technician, Ogden combined superior athletic ability, tremendous footwork, outstanding knowledge of the game and a fierce competitive zeal to become the most dominant offensive tackle of his era. More ...

Former Ravens running back Priest Holmes said, "He always had a book in his hand ... We always knew there was a lot more to him. A thinking person."

In the months ahead, Ogden will have plenty of time to think, read, play golf and solidify his place in the Baltimore community.

"There's a huge part of me that is going to miss playing football. But at the same time, I realize that it is time," said Ogden, who played in a career-low 11 games last season because of the toe injury. "I know I gave everything I had in 12 years. I left it out there every Sunday on the field for this town, myself and this organization. I can look back and say I have no regrets. I'm at peace with that."

Ogden's favorite season was in 2000, when the Ravens won the NFL championship (he wore his Super Bowl ring Thursday). But he was proudest of his performance in 2003, when he helped pave the way for Jamal Lewis to run for 2,066 yards -- second most in NFL history.

Come this fall, Ogden will view football from a vastly different perspective.

"I'm looking forward to going to the first home game and just kind of watching, being a football fan again," he said. "I want to be like everybody else and get mad at the TV and all that stuff on Sundays."

But what about next year? When his toe is completely healed, would Ogden consider a return to the NFL?

"You don't have to worry about me coming back," he said with a laugh. "That won't be happening."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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