Former Ravens safety Ed Reed stood in the middle of a makeshift softball diamond on a field he knows well and waved his arms as fans chanted his name.
Reed, who played 11 seasons with the Ravens, has long said that Baltimore will always feel like home, even after his expected Hall of Fame playing career is over. When that will be, however, remains very much a mystery.
Speaking at former teammate Lardarius Webb's charity softball game Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Reed said that he is preparing to play in the 2014 season. However, the 35-year-old free agent acknowledged that he has no plans to go to training camp with any team, and he's more than willing to wait until later in the regular season before joining another organization.
"I'm definitely preparing to play," said Reed, who has spent the offseason in Atlanta and Louisiana, working out and mentoring younger players. "If I wasn't, you would have heard something by now. The offseason is going great. I'm spending time with my family. I'm not in any rush at all.
"I learned a lot about the [free-agent] process last year and know my worth. I'm taking my time and getting myself all the way back to where I want to be. It will come back down to it, somewhere in-season. I'll probably wind up somewhere or not."
Reed split the 2013 season with the Houston Texans and the New York Jets, and his first NFL season outside Baltimore was a difficult one.
Reed originally signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Texans, but he was let go after playing in just seven games in which he didn't have an interception or a pass breakup. Following his release, he signed with the New York Jets and played seven games for them, making three interceptions.
His play was routinely criticized throughout the season, especially in Houston, and there have been no reported suitors for Reed this offseason, though he is confident that he can still help an organization, both as a leader and a mentor for young defensive backs.
"I'm not going to anybody's training camp," said Reed, seemingly serious, but you never can be sure with him. "I sat and watched the league last year from a different perspective, and I learned a lot. I saw there [were] teams that needed safeties in the latter part of the year. Right now, I'm just about taking care of me and getting myself back to [where] there's no question on my part. I know you guys may question [what I have left], but I'm not worried about that. It's about how I feel.
"I'm not worried about the end, man. I'm not under contract. I'm already at the finish line. I don't need to sign with anybody, but I know that I can still play. It's just a matter of [finding] the right fit. If not, hey, man, you guys will probably never see me again. I don't have to put in any papers. I don't have to sign anybody's contract. I don't have to go to anybody's organization. Ed Reed and Barry Sanders, they did it their way."
If it is indeed the end, Reed seems very much at peace. He had a smile on his face throughout Webb's softball game, strutting down the third base line after a home run and playfully kicking the base away and throwing his glove after the other team hit a home run of its own.
In an event that attracted current Ravens stars like Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, it was Reed who attracted the loudest and most consistent applause.
"It's always great to see Reed," Torrey Smith said. "He enjoyed himself, and the people in Baltimore still love him. It's special to see how they still welcome him."
Reed, who is the Ravens' franchise record-holder with 61 interceptions, admitted that the weekend trip to Baltimore brought back memories. He caught up with coach John Harbaugh and former defensive coordinator Dean Pees at Sunday's game. He stopped by his old locker room and greeted many of his former teammates.
Asked if he'd consider returning to Baltimore as a coach, Reed said that it wasn't up to him, but it certainly would be something that he'd consider.
"I think I can help pretty much any organization if I'm a position coach, consultant, whatever," he said. "I can see me working in the organization here. I could see me working for [general manager Ozzie Newsome], and those guys, and [owner Steve Bisciotti], because I put so much into it. I know how they work, and they taught me so much."
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun