'Raven for life,' Ogden closes era
An overflow crowd of teammates, coaches and reporters jammed into the Ravens' auditorium yesterday to bid farewell to Jonathan Ogden.

But the storied All-Pro offensive tackle wasn't ready to say goodbye completely.

In a touching and lighthearted half-hour news conference, Ogden officially retired but made it clear he will remain to help the team, as well as stay committed to the city where he played his 12 seasons.

"I'm a Baltimore Raven for life," Ogden said with a smile. "There's no doubt about that."

Dressed in a black-and-silver, pinstriped, button-down shirt and matching slacks and sporting a new haircut, Ogden seemed comfortable with his decision.

At times, the gathering resembled a reunion more than a retirement. Ogden was never close to shedding tears, and he frequently cracked up the crowd - which included his family in the front row and at least 15 former teammates - with old stories.

The franchise's first pick in 1996, Ogden talked about his shock when he was given a plain black-and-white cap on draft day because the fledgling Ravens didn't have a logo. "I'm like, what is this?" Ogden deadpanned.

He ribbed former teammate Harry Swayne about how he got away with a blocking penalty in the AFC championship game on Shannon Sharpe's 96-yard touchdown catch.

And he admittedly embellished the time when he caught Deion Sanders from behind 80 yards downfield in the Pro Bowl.

Yet amid the laughter, Ogden acknowledged how much he labored over the decision to leave football. "It's mixed emotions, honestly," Ogden said. "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."

The Ravens thought they were close to having Ogden, 33, back a few months ago.

He visited team headquarters in mid-March, sitting in on an offensive meeting with coordinator Cam Cameron and watching a practice.

"There was a glimmer in his eye," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I think there was a feeling ... that with these changes, J.O. might come back and finish this journey with us. But that euphoria left when he left here."

About a month ago, Newsome called Ogden and asked him for a final decision.

Ogden paused and said, "I'm done."

His hyperextended toe had failed to fully heal, which meant Ogden wouldn't be able to play at his Pro Bowl level.

He wanted to hold off an official announcement until after the Ravens' final full-team minicamp to avoid being a distraction.

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

A perfectionist throughout his career, Ogden didn't want to tarnish his reputation with a less-than-stellar season.