In his first public comments since reporting to Ravens’ training camp last week, there was no sign of the bitter and withdrawn Ed Reed that surfaced at various points of the offseason.
The mercurial safety, who is entering the final year of his contract, said Wednesday he hopes to play beyond this season, expressed a desire to remain with the Ravens and maintained that his complete focus is on getting ready for the 2012-13 campaign.
“Talks have already been there. I know [ general manager Ozzie Newsome] and them know I want to be here,” Reed said. “We will get that done when it's time to cross that bridge. I'm good with football right now. I'm focused on the season. That's all I'm worried about right now is getting my teammates better and get myself better and get ready to go forward this season. Like I said, they know I'm assessing myself year-to-year. Would I like to play more? Of course, but the body tells you something different. You know, that's something you always deal with after the season. So, when we cross that bridge, you guys will know.”
Reed, who turns 34 in September, ended months of uncertainty last week by reporting to training camp on time. Since his arrival, he’s been vintage Reed, ranging sideline-to-sideline during practices and breaking quickly on balls that some safeties wouldn’t even attempt to make plays on.
In an abbreviated practice Wednesday, he made an athletic play to intercept Joe Flacco in the end zone, jarred a ball loose from wide receiver Jacoby Jones and then took a lateral from long-time teammate Ray Lewis and headed toward the end zone.
“The one thing about Ed is he’s a professional, loves this game, prepares like no other, and to stay away from it would probably have been really hard for him” said Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin, who added that he never doubted Reed would return . “I’m glad he’s back with us, moving full speed ahead. Any secondary, if you take a Hall of Famer out of it, they would be hurting.”
Following the practice, Reed distanced himself from some of his offseason comments, which included him talking about wanting to play four or five more years, then flirting with the possibility of retirement or an extended holdout, while on one occasion, accusing the Ravens’ front office of disrespect.
“This is a job. That's what a lot of people are missing,” Reed said. “There's a lot we deal with because it is a physical job. I know the Ravens know I want to be here. I wouldn't give myself to the football team like I do if I didn't want to be here. There is a business side to it. Not every story plays out the way you want it to. When we cross that bridge you guys will know.”
Reed did acknowledge that not having an agent complicates any potential contract negotiation, but it didn’t sound like he plans to hire one any time soon.
“I don't know how they're going to go about it,” Reed said. “I know they tried to deal with things last season. That's why the talks have been the way they have been because I've been dealing with it myself. That's the way I choose to go about it in this business because there's a lot of stuff you have to deal with. I didn't want a middle man in between. I felt like I can handle it, but you do need somebody to kind of say the things you're not able to say because you are in the business. I have a lot of respect for this organization obviously. They gave me a chance back in 2003 to come here and play and I know they have respect for me. The disrespectful things I talked about was something that I was dealing with when it came to me seeing doctors and stuff like that.”
Despite dealing with neck, hip and shoulder issues over the years, Reed started all 18 games for the Ravens last season, finishing the regular-season with 52 tackles, one sack and three interceptions. It marked the first time since 2008 in which Reed didn’t miss a game.
He said his body has held up through the early part of training camp, but he acknowledged that the health issues are “still there.”
“I never had a nerve impingement surgery yet,” he said. “I had a stinger against Jacksonville, nothing that I haven’t had since high school. Those things are a part of football. You just have to be a smart football player to make sure you are doing the rehab, the things that you need to do to get yourself ready for the grueling part of a season. I cross those bridges when I do in a game. I might lay on the ground for a half of a second or two seconds or may come out for a play, but I have always come back and finished the game. If it ain’t nothing tragic — God forbid — and I can come back and play, that’s what I do. If it’s something that is going to take me out of the game, I would hope that they do what they are supposed to do to keep me out and protect me from myself.”
Reed also took an opportunity during the interview to praise quarterback Joe Flacco, who he criticized last year in the days leading up to the AFC championship game. He said Flacco “is a guy that you want taking that snap at the end of the game leading your team to go into that final drive to win the game.”
He also expressed excitement about facing off against some of the game’s top quarterbacks this season as the Ravens will have to deal with Super Bowl winners Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning among others.
Informed that group has won a total of eight Super Bowls, Reed said, “So, bring them on, man. I’m sure they are going to game-plan like they always do, write on their wristband and know I’m there and all that. I welcome them. I look forward to them. That’s probably a question for you critics who said that Ed Reed has lost it, but they won’t throw my way.”
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