Reed's exploits are plain to see , even by greatest in field

The Baltimore Sun

When the Ravens play the Titans in Tennessee tomorrow, Hall of Fame safety Ken Houston will be sitting in front of his television watching the Ravens' defense, particularly safety Ed Reed.

Houston played 14 seasons in the NFL, six with the Houston Oilers and eight with the Washington Redskins. He made 10 Pro Bowls and had 49 career interceptions, nine of which he returned for touchdowns.

Asked whether Reed reminds him of any other great NFL safeties, Houston modestly said, yes, "me."

"He is special," Houston said, "because he goes from defense to offense. The minute he catches the ball, he believes he can score. He reminds me of me when he catches the ball and reverses the field. That's all instinct.

"I've seen some really great safeties in modern times, like Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Barring injury, Ed Reed is going to have a great career and is going to stack up against the best."

The compliments keep coming in for Reed, 30. In seven seasons, he already has 48 interceptions (including playoffs), 12 total touchdowns, 1,144 interception return yards and five Pro Bowl selections. The ultimate compliments, though, come from those who are in the Hall of Fame, like Houston, or those destined to be there, like former Pittsburgh cornerback and Ravens safety Rod Woodson, who is eligible to join the Hall in 2009.

Reed has some of the all-time greats at his position buzzing.

"If he stays healthy, he is going to break Paul Krause's all-time interception record at 81 and shatter the all-time return yardage record," said Woodson, who holds the NFL records for return yardage (1,483 yards) and touchdowns (12) off interceptions after he picking off 71 passes during a 17-year career. "He might end up with 2,100 return yards. If Ed's career ended right now, there would be a strong argument to get him into the Hall of Fame."

This season, Reed has made 40 tackles and knocked down 14 passes and has 10 interceptions in the past seven games, including two in the Ravens' 27-9 wild card playoff win at Miami.

In that game, Reed had the play of the game, returning an interception 64 yards for a touchdown. It was vintage Reed. He caught the ball in the middle of the field and then ran to his left. He reversed field to his right and picked up a couple of blockers around the 20-yard line before leaping into the end zone.

Was it Woodson-like?

"Oh no, I would have gotten tired," said Woodson, laughing.

Houston was impressed.

"When you reverse field like that, that's how you're supposed to run the ball," Houston said. "The great running backs go against the grain. Ed Reed reversed his field to get to those offensive linemen because they aren't used to tackling. Once he picked up a few blocks, it was over. ...

"He is in a zone. He's feeling it, and he is playing by his feel for the game and instincts."

There are few players who watch as much film as Reed. He'll study the opposition, but he also teaches some of the younger members of the secondary. By game time, Reed has run the same plays over and over again in mind about several hundred times.

And then on the field, his instincts take over. Woodson was a similar player. In fact, when the Ravens drafted Reed, general manager Ozzie Newsome said Reed could become another Woodson.

"You can see that he studies so much film that he knows the plays and has a feel for how the offensive coordinator is going to call the game," Woodson said.

Woodson points to Reed's second interception against Miami on Sunday. Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington's pass was supposed to be throwing short to running back Patrick Cobb on the left side of the field. Reed, playing on the opposite side, jumped the route as soon as the ball was snapped for the interception.

"That's because he trusts his eyes," Woodson said. "Everything he has worked for, all his preparations, he trusts himself on game day. A lot of guys, on their way up from Little League, to high school, to college to the pros, they lose their instincts. But you don't want to be a robot, and you don't want to be a cowboy, either."

"Ed plays with such great instincts. ... Some guys play in a zone for a game, but Ed Reed has been playing out of his mind for an entire second half of a season."

It seems kind of strange. At the beginning of training camp, Reed didn't practice because of a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder. Back then, he even mentioned possible retirement if he couldn't continue to play at a high level.

Now, he's on the way to Canton, Ohio.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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