OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed emboldened critics of quarterback Joe Flacco in January when he was critical of him following a playoff victory over the Houston Texans.
One week later, Flacco nearly led the Ravens to the Super Bowl as he outplayed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship game with Lee Evans dropping a potential touchdown pass in the end zone.
The flap was quickly smoothed over with Reed and Flacco having a conversation prior to the title game.
Several months later at training camp Wednesday, Reed sounds like a bonafide Flacco fan who has gained respect for the quarterback.
"Joe is smart," said Reed, who also is making nice with the front office after a rocky offseason and saying he wants a new long-term deal. "Obviously, I've been here since Joe has been here. He's grown every year. Joe is the leader. Joe understands where we're at right now and understands that this don't count for his stats or whatever. He knows he can take chances out here, but when he is in the game, he is a totally different guy. He is more in command. Joe, you just watch him. He has grown. Joe is a family guy now.
"He has a lot more on his plate off the field. That makes you grow as a man. So, it makes you deal with things differently. It makes you lead in the locker room a lot differently. If you sit around and talk with Joe, you know a lot more about him. You know he is a lot calmer and a lot cooler. We all get shaken at some times, that's football, but Joe is going to always come back. He is a fighter. He 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."
Just to refresh memories, here's what Reed had to say during his Sirius NFL radio interview back in January after Flacco was sacked five times with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 20-13 AFC divisional playoff win over the Texans.
"I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense," Reed said. "They had a lot of guys in the box on him. And, I mean, they were getting to him. I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball. I don't know how much of the play calling, he could have made audibles or anything like that, checks or whatnot, man, but it just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past. You know, it was just kind of like they was telling him to do, throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys. And he can't play like that.
"You know, one particular play that sticks out to me is when Ray Rice came out of the backfield, he got pushed down and [Flacco] still threw him the ball and you got one-on-one with Torrey Smith on the outside. But it's hearsay for me. I can say that sitting on the sidelines, you know, or sitting in the stands. You just never know what somebody else is seeing."
Reed also criticized the offensive line during that interview, which was probably deserving of some pointed remarks as offensive tackle Michael Oher and offensive guard Marshal Yanda were savaged by rookie defensive end J.J. Watt and rookie outside linebacker Brooks Reed. Watt and Reed combined for 20 tackles and five sacks.
"Offensive line gotta block better," Reed said. "You know, they gotta communicate better, gotta pick up blocks, Joe's gotta get the ball out of his hand. We gotta do a good job of using our weapons. I think Ricky Williams should have had the ball a little bit more yesterday. You know, I mean, Ray Rice was running it, too, but you gotta be able to mix those guys in back and forth.
"It's a lot of things that we all need to correct going into New England because they do such a great job of making adjustments, you know, in-game adjustments. It's not just coming up with a scheme and playing the game. You gotta be able to make adjustments while the game is in the flow."
Anyway, kinda old news, but still interesting.