Former Oilers/Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair’s sudden death from a gunshot wound has triggered considerable sadness throughout the National Football League.
Especially from the men who played alongside McNair in Nashville and Baltimore.
Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason was one of McNair’s favorite targets during his stints with the Titans and the Ravens. And the news of McNair’s passing is hitting him very hard.
“Steve was such a happy person,” Mason said in a statement released a few minutes ago by the Ravens. “I even called him ‘Smile.’ He was always smiling and was always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed it. I’ve known him for 13 years, and he was the most selfless, happiest and friendliest person I have known. His family and my family are close, and it is a blow to us all. It is a devastating day.
“Steve will always have a place in my heart. My family and I are hurting for his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. On the field, there isn’t a player that was as tough as him, especially at the quarterback position. What I have seen him play through on the field, and what he dealt with during the week to get ready for a game, I have never known a better teammate.”
Like Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle was McNair’s teammate and close friend in both NFL cities.
And, like Mason, Rolle’s heart is hurting today at the loss of McNair.
“Steve was the ultimate man, first of all,” Rolle said. “I played with Steve every year of my career, except for two, and got to know his family during that time. He was such a good family man. My prayers are with them at this tough time. I still can’t even believe it. To lose such a good friend and a good man so soon doesn’t make sense.
“If you were going to draw a football player, the physical part, the mental part, everything about being a professional, he is your guy. I can’t even wrap my arms around it. It is a sad, sad day. The world lost a great man today.”
For Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, McNair was the consummate competitor during the epic rivalry between Baltimore and Tennessee back in the old AFC Central days.
So when Newsome got a chance to acquire McNair toward the end of his career via a trade, he pounced on the opportunity.
“This is so, so sad,” Newsome said. “We immediately think of his family, his boys. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. What we admired most about Steve when we played against him was his competitive spirit, and we were lucky enough to have that with us for two years.
“He is one of the best players in the NFL over the last 20 years. . . . He was a great player, one of the toughest of competitors, and a tremendous teammate, who was a leader on the field and in the locker room, especially to the young players.”
The Ravens are attempting to obtain a statement from middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who’s having a hard time dealing with the news.