It's time for Harbaugh to make difficult changes with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have struggled as every down players and could be a liability in the playoffs

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is trying to walk the line without falling off the edge — and possibly taking down his team, as well.

Everything seems to be great in the purple Kool-Aid world of the Ravens. The team has won the AFC North title. The Ravens have a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, giving them a chance to heal, and they will get a home playoff game for the first time since 2007.

But here's the problem: The team's two potential Hall of Famers, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, haven't played well, and the Ravens haven't addressed the issue.

It's time.

You can't hide them any longer. They're still playing well enough for the Ravens to win most of their games, but are playing poorly enough where they might cost them deep into the postseason.

Harbaugh knows it.

He watches film. As the players say, "the eye in the sky doesn't lie." But for right now, it's not a fight he chooses to take on because if he does, he risks losing his team.

Baltimoreans have been down this sensitive road before. The Orioles went through it with shortstop Cal Ripken. Reed and Lewis are still both enormously popular in the locker room, especially with the young players who practically worship them.

If you upset Reed and Lewis, you're rolling the dice with team chemistry. Also, there is a loyalty issue here because both have been faithful to the organization, especially Lewis, who is still the face of the franchise.

This is a difficult time for Harbaugh. It's tough even writing this column because Lewis and I were rookies at the same time; he as a player and I as a beat writer.

We've been through 16 training camps together, and a lot of great wins and tough losses. There isn't a Raven player who has been more passionate and dedicated to a city or a team.

But it's difficult watching Lewis play on Sundays. He is a victim of his own success, having set standards so high that even he can no longer reach them. He is still one of the better linebackers in the league, but not the Lewis that used to destroy running backs, and take away a team's desire to play against him.

Lewis made progress in dealing with a turf toe injury Sunday against Cincinnati compared to the previous two weeks, but he has become a liability on third down and passing situations.

Teams are picking and isolating on him because he can't backpedal and drop into coverage anymore. Lewis won't admit it and Harbaugh won't address it because the Ravens live in "Ray's World."

But with the decrease in playing ability comes a decrease in power, and it's time for Harbaugh to have that talk with Lewis. He can stay on the field in running situations because Lewis can still defend the run from tackle to tackle, but he needs to come off in passing situations.

This isn't only about "Ray's World", but about a team capable of reaching a Super Bowl.

Reed's situation is different. With Lewis, it's physical. With Reed, he's losing the mental game he has been playing with himself. He no longer makes plays. He can't even make tackles for fear of suffering a recurring neck or shoulder injury.

In the past two weeks, we've seen him give up big plays versus both the run and the pass.

You respect Reed because another neck or shoulder injury could be a life changing event, but at the same time, he needs to step up his game or step off the field.

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