suntimes
GRINCHY 
Weather Updates

Ravens safety Ed Reed knows joys — and dangers — of playing football

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens

storyidforme: 43865943
tmspicid: 16240733
fileheaderid: 7305093

Updated: March 2, 2013 11:47AM



NEW ORLEANS — A lot
of things seemingly have
overshadowed the
homecoming party of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed this week.

Take Wednesday, for instance.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis drew another massive crowd as more queries were made about banned substances. San Francisco 49ers receiver Randy Moss declared once again he thinks he’s the best receiver ever. And Jack and Jackie Harbaugh held a jam-packed conference room captive while sharing stories about their sons, who are squaring off as coaches in the Super Bowl.

But this Super Bowl is about Reed’s legacy, too. Like Moss, Reed is one of the best to play his position and is nearing the end of his career. Like Lewis, he is a leader for the Ravens and a spiritual man. Like the Harbaughs, this is a family event for him.

‘‘He’s definitely going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,’’ Ravens special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo said. ‘‘In my opinion, there’s only two safeties who come up as the greatest safeties of all time: It’s him and Ronnie Lott.’’

Reed wasn’t part of the Ravens’ 2001 Super Bowl-winning team, but he has been a game-changer — 61 career interceptions, 1,541 return yards, seven touchdowns, 137 passes defended and nine Pro Bowl selections speak to that — since being drafted out of Miami in 2002.

‘‘[Reed is] unique in his own right,’’ 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said. ‘‘He’s so unorthodox in how he plays. It’s not textbook safety play that you’re used to seeing. He plays cover-2 different than anybody. He plays the middle different than anybody. It definitely requires a lot of film study because he doesn’t play safety like anybody else.’’

Reed’s career has featured plenty of violent, injury-causing and illegal hits. It’s the one controversial aspect of his 11-year career. Unlike others, though, he won’t shrug off all the violence of the sport. He knows it has ravaged his well-being and says if his son wants to play the game, he’d educate him about concussions and the risks before allowing him to do so.

‘‘If you have the knowledge and the information, maybe then you can make better decisions,’’ Reed said.

Such comments make Reed seem genuine and introspective.

Reed is from St. Rose, La., which is just outside New Orleans. His return has set off plenty of memories, but they come with the perspective of a player nearing the end of his career.

‘‘When you get to this point in your career and you get to the Super Bowl, everything comes up, especially coming home,’’ Reed said. ‘‘You think about everything.’’

Those memories include losing his brother, Brian, two years ago. Brian jumped into the Mississippi River after encountering law enforcement and drowned.

But Reed prefers to maintain his privacy. Asked about his son, all Reed would say is that he has the same name.

‘‘I don’t really put my family in the media like that,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s personal stuff.’’

Reed’s future is being scrutinized because he’s going to be a free agent. There has been plenty of speculation he’ll retire and plenty of questions about teams he’d consider playing for if he and the Ravens part ways.

‘‘Who I really talk to is my dad and my doctor, if I’m physically able,’’ Reed, 34, said. ‘‘But it’s all here. If I have the heart for it and I want to continue to play, then I’m going to do it.’’

How would he want to be remembered?

‘‘I just try to play the game and live right as best as possible,’’
Reed said.

Reed calls himself just another safety, but that’s not really accurate.

‘‘Ray Lewis gets a lot of the attention — and rightly so,’’ Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ‘‘He’s been with the organization from 1996 on. But Ed’s been here 11 years now. Ed is a fixture in Baltimore. He’s a big part of who we are.’’



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.