OWINGS MILLS – During the final days of the NFL lockout in late July, Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed couldn’t have felt better.
Sitting on a hill at his youth football camp in Reisterstown, Reed said he had built up his muscles to the point where the nerve impingement in his neck was no longer bothering him.
The rigors of the NFL season, though, have taken a considerable toll on the health of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
He has missed at least one tackle for each of the past four games, dealing with a painful shoulder injury that’s affecting his deltoid muscle while also contending with the nerve impingement that has plagued him for years.
“Football, man,” said Reed when asked what happened to his body since July. “You’re going to have bumps and bruises, man. I have yet to miss a game this year, so be it.”
Reed was unable to bring down Cincinnati Bengals running back Bernard Scott on a 25-yard touchdown run during the Ravens’ regular-season finale as he busted through an arm tackle attempt. He also couldn’t bring down tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Reed said he’s doing all he can to deal with his health issues.
"It takes a lot,” Reed said. “I work at it with my doctor who helps me every week. I’m getting treatment every week. The trainers do an amazing job. It’s being smart.
“It’s part of being a professional, understanding you can’t be doing certain things and take care of your body. One, being drinking. You got to be smart about what you’re doing. Guys take care of themselves, getting massages, whatever it might take.”
Reed acknowledged that his shoulder has been bothering him, which he first mentioned to the Times following the Bengals game while denying that was the reason he missed the tackle on Scott.
He said he doesn’t think he’ll need to have surgery to repair the damage after the season.
"It’s amazing what these guys do for years," Reed said. "People put themselves at risk playing this game. Your body goes through a lot. It’s a lot you have to do to stay healthy. I commend these guys for what we’ve been through as a team battling through injuries this year physically.
"It’s tough as football players, but this is what we signed up for. Guys have been playing this game for a long time. We understand the value of taking care of your body and it trickles down to the young guys. They understand and they take heed to what we do.”
Reed is down to three interceptions this season after picking off eight passes a year ago.
However, Reed attributed his reduced production to teams avoiding throwing in his direction.
“He’s arguably one of the best players to ever play the safety position,” Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson told Houston reporters. “You have to know where he’s at on the field at all times because he is definitely a guy that can pick one off and take it the distance and change the momentum of the game. You definitely have to know where he is at all times.”
INJURY UPDATES: Ravens inside linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo (sprained right quadriceps) and Jameel McClain (sprained medial collateral ligament) were limited in practice Thursday.
McClain wasn’t listed on the Wednesday injury report, which may have been an oversight since he got hurt against the Bengals.
The Ravens also added offensive guard Marshal Yanda (bruised ribs) to the injury report, listing him at full participation.
Also participating fully: wide receiver Anquan Boldin (knee surgery), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Tom Zbikowski (concussions).
Limited for the Houston Texans: offensive guard Mike Brisiel (ankle), tight end Owen Daniels (hand, knee), wide receiver Andre Johnson (hip) and safety Troy Nolan (ankle).
Full participation: linebacker Mister Alexander (shoulder), cornerback Jason Allen, linebacker Bryan Braman (neck), defensive end Tim Bulman (calf), fullback James Casey (knee, foot), nose guard Shaun Cody (knee), tight end Joel Dreesen (knee), cornerback Sherrick McManis (ankle), center Chris Myers (knee), linebacker Brooks Reed (knee), offensive tackle Eric Winston (calf) and quarterback T.J. Yates (left shoulder).
FAMILIAR TERRITORY: A former defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina, Chuck Pagano is familiar with Yates.
He was a freshman when Pagano was on the Tar Heels coaching staff in 2008 before later going on to be drafted in the fifth round last April by the Texans.
Now, Pagano and Yates will face each other in Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game.
“He was in a pro-style offense there, so he was trained to do what he’s doing now,” Pagano said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s having the success that he’s having,. Again, he’s surrounded with a ton of talent. They can run the football, which takes a ton of pressure off him. He’s always got backs and tight ends to check it down. He’s doing a really good job
“He was just a young guy in a new system making his way, and watching him from afar after leaving after a year and watching his maturation process and seeing how far he’s come, he’s done really good for himself. I’m proud of the kid.”
Pagano downplayed whether his familiarity with Yates will be a factor Sunday.
His conclusion: “Maybe understanding his strengths and weaknesses maybe a little more, but what we see on tape is what we’re going to get.”