Reed insists that he hasn’t changed as a person since signing a seven-year,
$40 million contract extension this summer that included $15 million in
“Money don’t define me,” said Reed, who grew up in a blue-collar background in
suburban New Orleans as the son of a ship welder. “It never did. It never will.
I’m a football player and I go ahead with that.
“We need certain things to survive. That’s just something that added more to me.
It’s a blessing, first and foremost. I thank the Ravens for that.”
Now that the financial aspect of pro football is behind Reed, who’s under
contract through 2012, he has unfinished business on the field.
Specifically, Reed, 27, is looking to regain his NFL Defensive Player of the
Year form following a career-worst season affected by a severe ankle injury that
kept him out for six weeks.
When Reed returned last December, he didn’t resemble the safety who set a
franchise record with nine interceptions in 2004, including a league-record
106-yard interception return.
His hands appeared rusty, dropping several potential interceptions. His
reactions weren’t nearly as decisive. Plus, offenses specifically schemed of
ways to avoid his territory.
Consequently, Reed finished with a career-low one interception, 40 tackles and
12 pass deflections as Baltimore skidded to a 6-10 campaign and the bottom of
the AFC North division.
“It was a learning experience,” Reed said. “Very frustrating, but you live and
you learn. When I got back, I was ready to go. It wasn’t hesitation. I think
everybody was more focused on my ankle, too, so I think that played a part.
“I’m not changing my game or nothing. I’m just more aware that they are looking
at me now more than anything.”
That scrutiny is unlikely to go away, which raises the ante for Reed in terms of
disguising his intentions. It hasn’t escaped his notice how much respect he’s
“More than anything, I think the coordinators are telling the quarterbacks to
find out where he is and make sure you’re not going to that spot,” Reed said.
Entering his fifth season, it only took Reed four years to intercept 22 passes
for the most in franchise history.
Twice, he’s been named to the Pro Bowl since Baltimore drafted him in the first
round in 2002. And the former University of Miami star has deflected 61 passes,
leading Baltimore in that category in 2003 and 2004.
With his contract addressed, Reed enters this season with no potential
“Ed has never shied away from a leadership role, contract or no contract, but
he’s obviously got less on his mind now than he might otherwise have had,”
Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Despite Reed’s statement that he hasn’t changed, his teammates have noticed an
“I’ve seen changes in him not just this year, but the past two years,” running
back Jamal Lewis said. “He wants to be a great player, a Hall of Fame type
player, and I think he’s on his way. It shows in his work ethic and how he tries
to go out there and be a leader on the field.”
Reed’s game is based around gambling, instincts and reactions.
He regularly jumps routes to pick the football off by baiting a quarterback into
thinking he’s going to be elsewhere. Or he’ll anticipate the snap count on a
blitz, waiting until the last possible instant to accelerate past the line of
For veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, watching Reed is akin to a time warp
back to the Ravens’ Super Bowl defense that featured former Pittsburgh Steelers
All-Pro cornerback Rod Woodson as a ball-hawking safety.
“He reminds me of Rod Woodson because he’s so smart and knows how to read the
defense,” Mason said. “Playing against Rod for a long time, he lost a step, but
was still smart enough to play because of that knowledge.
“Ed is one of those athletes that is smart. With that smartness and athleticism,
he’s the top free safety in the league.”
The Ravens’ investment in Reed practically shouts that they not only regard him
as the best at his position, but also as one of the impact defenders in the
Essentially, owner Steve Bisciotti, without verbalizing this publicly, made a
statement that Reed represents not only the present and future of the defense,
but also the entire franchise. Reed is slated to make base salaries of $585,000
this year, $595,000 in 2007, $605,000 in 2008, $3.6 million in 2009, $6 million
in 2010, $6.5 million in 2011 and $7.2 million in 2012.
Although Reed’s credentials are firmly established, he doesn’t act like a player
who’s inclined to no longer burn the midnight oil. Along with middle linebacker
Ray Lewis, Reed is considered the most devoted player on the team in terms of
studying film to gain an edge over opponents.
“Not yet," Reed replied when asked if he has mastered the safety position. "I
still think I got a long way to go.”
Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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