Reed hasn’t been cleared for contact drills, missing the entire preseason while consulting specialists across the nation to try to solve the mystery of a debilitating injury.
"Hopefully, I can get back, but health is more important right now," Reed told a small group of reporters Friday at the Ravens’ training complex. "It’s a long season and I feel like the team is going to need me more down the line than earlier and having to get hurt and can’t play again."
The four-time Pro Bowl safety emphasized that he doesn’t need surgery at this stage, adding that an operation could spell the end of his career. Reed indicated that the chronic injury affects his neck and shoulder and involves soreness and tightness.
"If I had surgery right now, you wouldn’t be interviewing me ever again," Reed said. "If I had surgery, I would not be playing anymore."
Reed has been searching for answers to his medical issue, visiting doctors in
"I wanted to make sure it is getting right, seeing every doctor that you can possibly see to make sure there is nothing catastrophic that can happen," Reed said. "I can still go out there and play as long as I take some safety precautions."
When asked if the injury affects the flexibility in his upper body, Reed proved that isn’t the case with a spontaneous break-dance as he rolled his shoulders and neck without difficulty.
"It’s more in-depth than that," Reed said. "It’s something I got to deal with. It won’t go away, but I can do some things to prevent a lot."
Reed, 29, led the Ravens with seven interceptions last season, and has 34 interceptions as the franchise’s all-time leader.
He has been wearing a red jersey to connote that he’s off-limits to contact. When Reed has collided with other players, he has been grimacing in pain.
"It just puts things in perspective, you see things from a whole different angle," Reed said. "You’re not getting pressured to play, but you know in the long run that this is a business.
"You’re not helping if you’re not out there. I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and I pray I can continue to do that. At the same time, you got to be smart about it."
Reed outlined a potential scenario where he might not practice much or hit during the week and then attempt to play on Sundays.
If Reed is unable to play, the Ravens would likely go with former Buffalo Bills safety Jim Leonhard. Leonhard intercepted a pass in a 10-9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
"Ed Reed is the best safety in the league and you always miss someone of that caliber when they are not out there," safety Dawan Landry said. "But it helps knowing there is not too much of a drop-off when guys like Jim Leonhard, Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski are out there to take his place."
All three players have had strong preseasons, taking turns with the first defense during practice with Reed sidelined.
"Great players, very instinctive guys," Reed said. "We have three guys that can go in there and make a play for us. When I do come back, we’re still going to need them."
Photo by Sabina Moran