Ravens current and past gather at Ogden's news conference

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Jonathan Ogden announced his retirement Thursday, ending a stellar career with the Baltimore Ravens in which the left offensive tackle garnered 11 Pro Bowl invitations and a Super Bowl ring.

Ogden, who turns 34 next month, has been bothered by an hyperextended toe since December 2006.

Ogden had arrived at the team's training complex Wednesday to confirm his decision and make plans for the Thursday news conference.

"I'm all right. I'm good with it," Ogden said of his retirement before meeting with team officials.

Ogden, at 6-9, 345 pounds, played in a career-low 11 games last year and did not participate in the Pro Bowl because of the bothersome big toe on his left foot. He did not participate in the team's offseason workouts, including a mandatory minicamp last month.

"That toe injury, I had it once. I know it's got to be emotionally draining on him," quarterback Kyle Boller said Wednesday. "That big toe, as big as he is, you've got to have that thing. I'm sure he got very frustrated with the whole situation. He probably sat down and decided that he wasn't going to be able to do it anymore."

Ogden was the first player drafted by the Ravens after the team left Cleveland in 1996. Plucked out of UCLA as the fourth overall pick, Ogden played left guard in his first season before finding a home at left tackle, the most important position on the offensive line.

He was named to the Pro Bowl in every season after his rookie year. He provided protection from the blindside for a variety of Baltimore quarterbacks, beginning with Vinny Testaverde and including
Trent Dilfer, who helped the Ravens defeat the New York Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl.

"It was a blessing. To know I wasn't going to get touched on the left side was huge," Boller said. "I'm going to miss him."

Ogden had an influence on virtually everyone who played for the Ravens over the past 12 years.

"In the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, there's nobody else I would rather have standing next to me than J.O.," said tight end
Todd Heap, now in his eighth season with Baltimore. "The guy was the smartest guy I've ever been around."

Ogden didn't scream and yell, but his will to win was never in doubt. If things didn't go right for the Baltimore offense, he often would rip off his helmet on the sideline and make his displeasure known.

"He could snap sometimes. I kind of wanted not to make too many mistakes and make him unhappy," Boller said. "He's a leader. He didn't say that much, but when he did it really meant a lot."

Those who played behind Ogden listened carefully and tried to emulate his technique. But there was no way to combine his size, quickness, talent and poise.

"I played behind him for three years [while I was on the] practice squad, just watching and learning from him," backup tackle
Mike Kracalik said. "He was a gifted athlete. I don't think I could ever live up to what Jonathan Ogden was to this league. His composure when he had a speed rusher on him -- he'd just sit back and be relaxed, and almost had a smile on his face when he did it."

Guard Jason Brown said, "He brought me along so fast. He helped me definitely be a better player. He wouldn't always tell me what to do, but you know what? If I ever did something wrong he would definitely let me know."

Teammates believe Ogden might have considered returning for another season were it not for that troublesome big toe.

"The key to your game is your base, your feet," Heap said. "You could tell when it was bothering him, but that's the sign of a true pro. He was still at the top of the game even when it was bothering him."

Jared Gaither, a second-year player out of Maryland, is currently the front-runner to replace Ogden on the left side. He may not be as talented as Ogden, but at 6-9, 350 pounds, he has the size to fill those rather big footsteps.

"He's young; he's not J.O. by any stretch," first-year head coach John Harbaugh said. "But he's had a chance to watch J.O. for a year and he's got some of the same kind of skill set that J.O. has. He's got a long way to go to become a great offensive tackle in this league, but we're really pleased with his progress."

Gaither did not participate in a passing camp practice Wednesday because of migraines, leaving Kracalik to take the brunt of the work at left tackle.