OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There was no crying, no second-guessing and absolutely no remorse. Jonathan Ogden wore a broad 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."
|Jonathan Ogden says, 'I know I gave everything I had in 12 years.' (AP)|
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.