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RANDALLSTOWN – Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed listened intently to the youngsters chanting in unison and he smiled, perhaps allowing him to momentarily take his mind off his surgically-repaired hip that will likely sideline him for the first six games of the regular season.
“Don’t Reed-tire!,” they said. “Don’t Reed-tire!”
Reed quipped that the kids should be his negotiators.
During the first day of his youth football camp at Randallstown High, it was a respite for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year following his rebuffed contract request last year and an unspecified disconnect with the organization.
In a 20-minute interview with a small group of reporters, Reed reiterated that he isn’t getting what he wants from the Ravens.
"I haven’t had the support from the other side as you think has been there," Reed said. "If I don’t say it now, it won’t ever get said. .. It’s like a marriage. There are going to be disagreements.
"You got to work with that person. Not easily broken, man. When it starts to get too much, you got to pull back: ‘Is it worth it? Or should I take a pay cut and be on another team? .. It’s not any bad stuff or ill will toward the Ravens.”
He declined to elaborate on specific details, stating that he wants to communicate his concerns to team officials first about what he characterized as minor issues before airing anything publicly. It’s believed that Reed is hoping for better communication with team officials about his surgery and rehabilitation schedule.
“You never hear about the things that go on behind closed doors or happen to a guy like Steve McNair,” Reed said. “I’m not going to get into the things I’ve been through unless it continues. Then, I’m going to put it out there. It’s something that will be discussed as a business, as a partner with the Ravens. We got to work together.”
Reed quickly said that he wasn’t saying he’s not allowed to work out at the facility, as the late McNair was with the Tennessee Titans prior to joining the Ravens via a trade.
“I can work out at the facility,” Reed said. “It’s other things I’ve been going through. Certain people don’t know about yet until I meet with them. I want to put it on you guys’ mind and there are things that won’t be discussed until I talk to them. It’s minor.
Reed said that he requested a new contract last season, but said it was rejected. He insisted that he hasn’t asked for one this year as he recovers from his injury.
Reed has three years left on a six-year, $40 million deal that included $15 million in guaranteed money with remaining base salaries of $6 million this year, $6.5 million in 2011 and $7.2 million in 2012.
Reed said that he has spoken with general manager Ozzie Newsome, chief negotiator Pat Moriarty and team owner Steve Bisciotti about his situation over the past year.
"The word I got was, ‘We’re comfortable with where we’re at,’" Reed said. "Yes, you would be comfortable with the plays that I’m making on the field and paying me what you’re paying me. .. There are six, seven players in front of me at my position [in terms of money] that I honestly wouldn’t let hold my jock, and I don’t even wear one.’”
One of the most dangerous safeties in the game in terms of his ability to anticipate where the football is going and pick off passes, Reed said he’s one of the top players in the league.
During a speech, Reed told the kids that no safety has ever played the game to his standard.
“Peyton Manning don’t sleep when he sees No. 20 going to Indy, but, let alone, he’s making $100 [million],” Reed said.
Reed said he would be open to the idea of restructuring his contract to convert base salaries into a signing bonus.
“It’s not about being selfish,” Reed said. “I’m a good businessman. You have to think that the individual, he is his own corporation.”
Reed was adamant that he isn’t sure when he’ll return this season.
He said he’s leaning toward going on the physically unable to perform list when the regular season begins. That would entail missing at least the first six games of the season. He’ll definitely begin training camp on the PUP list, so he won’t count against the active roster and he won’t be playing in the preseason games or practicing at McDaniel College.
Reed underwent the surgery in April following the draft and the surgery requires four to six months of recovery time. That doesn’t leave much time to get healthy.
The veteran defensive back didn’t rule out possibly being available for the Jets game, but it’s regarded as a long shot.
Reed said he made his injury worse by returning to play late last season.
"Like I told my coach, I’m preparing myself to try to come back for that first game," Reed said. "But who’s to say it’s going to be the first game against the Jets or the first game in October, November or December. I honestly don’t know. ..
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be out. I don’t know when I’m going to be back. I don’t know which game it’s going to be. I’m not going to rush it to come back for any particular game. I don’t want to hurt it again. I’m not going to rush it for anybody.”
Would he come back sooner if he was given a new contract?
“It would still be a stupid move to come back and get hurt the third and fourth game of the season and they paid me,” Reed said. “I’m not rushing.”
Reed emphasized that his hip injury is serious enough to sideline him for the entire year if he’s not aggressive about getting back on the field as soon as possible.
“Honestly, I shouldn’t even be playing this year,” Reed said.
At one point during drills, Reed looked like his old self.
He shuffled his feet with a lot of speed and precision in a ladder drill. And he swiveled his hips during another sequence. It didn’t last, though, as a limp was noticeable most of the time.
“It’s still a slow process,” said Reed, who has estimated he’s back to a bit over 35 percent physically. “If you kept watching me, you saw a little limp and that I couldn’t do everything and had a little soreness. I knew I would have to demonstrate to the kids. It’s coming along.”
Reed, 31, said he would like to play football for a long time, eight to 10 years more.
“I don’t want to retire,” Reed said.
Will he be healthy enough to play that long?
“I wouldn’t ask the Ravens for anything if I wasn’t going to be playing,” Reed said.
Is it in the Ravens’ best interests to give a new deal to a player who’s also dealing with a painful nerve impingement?
A neck specialist recommended that Reed have surgery on his neck to repair the damage, but he declined to do so. Eventually, it’s something Reed says he’ll have to address.
“I know I have to take care of it surgically at some point,” Reed said.
Reed said that he has no hard feelings toward the Ravens, but repeatedly indicated there are things to iron out.
"If it was up to me, I would retire here," Reed said. "Does it always happen? No. At the end of the day, it’s a business. Yes, I want to finish my career in Baltimore. Will it happen? Hey, both sides have to talk about it.”
NOTES: The Ravens have released center Digger Bujnoch. Signed to a reserve/future contract in January, Bujnoch was with the team throughout the offseason. The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder played collegiately at Cincinnati. …
Reed moved his camp to Maryland for the first time, and it concludes today. He was joined by quarterback Troy Smith and outside linebacker Edgar Jones.
“We just wanted to come out here and give the community of Baltimore and give these kids something to take with them,” Reed said. “A lot of them don’t have the coaching, the technique. We just want to put that foundation down. It’s just like life. We’re trying to get the kids while they’re young.
“We talk to them about their academics and school and fitness and drinking more water and eating right. It was a great day. These kids are amazing. It was about getting kids off the street, as many as we could.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital