INDIANAPOLIS -Brian Billick doesn't think tht the Baltimore Ravens will ever have to shove middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed out the door one day.
The former Baltimore Ravens coach thinks both Pro Bowl defenders will know when it's time to walk away. Both Lewis and Reed have declared they intend to return for next season.
Reed has played through a lot of pain in recent years, including hip, neck and shoulder problems.
"It's eventually going to happen for everyone," said Billick, a NFL Network and FOX Sports analyst at the NFL scouting combine.. "Ed Reed is a little bit different because of the injuries. Ed, as you know, is very in tune to that. The demands on his body and the hits that he takes, at some point. Ed will be prudent that way. It may take the entire offseason.
"When we had Jonathan Ogden, Jonathan could have continued to play but Jonathan knew because the toe injury at the end, 'You know what? I'm not going to do what I know how I have to do in the offseason to come back and play. Yeah, I'm going to keep playing but I know what that offseason has to be.'"
Lewis' longevity has been impressive. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is entering his 17th season.
He missed four games last season with a toe injury.
"Ray, gosh, it amazes me," Billick said. "I thought a couple of years ago he was a bit of a liability on third down and he seemed to bounce back in only the way Ray Lewis can, and needed to be on the field every snap. Amazing. Even for Ray Lewis, at some point..
"Ray has such a high expectation for himself and, again, it's hard for a player sometimes to truly recognize where are you. I've had a number of my former players, typically the smart ones, that will call outside sources and say, 'Coach, look at my film, tell me if it's time for me to go.' It's a tough question."
Billick won the Ravens' lone Super Bowl title following the 2000 NFL season.
He likes what he sees from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who replaced Billick after he was fired after going 5-11 during the 2007 season.
Harbaugh has a 44-20 record in the regular season and is the lone NFL coach to win at least one playoff game for the past four seasons, reaching the AFC championship game twice.
"John has been brilliant," Billick said. "Part of it is because he came into a team that was, I don't want to sound self-serving, but was pretty good, and a good, sound organization. It's the same reason whether it be a Bill Belichick or now Tom Coughlin, a Mike McCarthy.
"Once you have a certain level of success, it's kind of assumed so you don't give them credit for continuing to have that success. But John's been brilliant in what he has done in Baltimore and has them on the cusp. They're going to be there again next year."
Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org