As I’ve said on this page before, Ed Reed is my favorite football player of all time.
Rather than a full closet of Ravens jerseys, I only have three – a home #20, an away #20, and a black #5. As a matter of superstition, I wear whatever color the team is wearing that game; since they only wear black once or twice a year, I spend the majority of game days with the name “Reed” on my back.
In the past, when Ed was his surly, difficult self – “Ed being Ed” as many came to know it – I was as frustrated with him as any fan. But no matter how many times he came out and said confusing things during the offseason, Ed was still my guy.
Over the years, many fans grew annoyed with some of Reed’s antics on the field – the lateraling after interceptions, the “gambling” that resulted in big plays for the opponent when he guessed wrong. I found myself reminding my fellow fans that “you have to take the good with the bad with Ed.”
The good always far outweighed the bad.
Ed was still my guy.
More recently, he stopped with the ill-advised laterals, but other parts of his game began to diminish. Watching him try to tackle over the past several seasons – how many times did we see him hitch a ride on an opposing running back for 5-7 yards? – made us wince and pine for the player he used to be, flying around the line of scrimmage and punishing ballcarriers.
Though his physical skills faded, Ed – much like his teammate Ray Lewis – was still one of the smartest players on the field, and he continued to strike fear in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, who avoid his side of the field to this day.
Tom Brady famously had “find 20 on every play” written on his wristband during the 2011 AFC Championship Game.
Reed had been a part of playoff failures in Baltimore in 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. While many NFL fans outside of Baltimore just assumed that Ed was part of the greatest defense ever assembled in 2000, obviously that was not the case. Reed was on the Miami Hurricanes NCAA Championship team of 2001, but had never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
During the team’s most recent playoff run, no player on the roster seemed to be enjoying himself more than Ed Reed.
I don’t think he stopped smiling from about midway through the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game win in Foxboro until kickoff of the Super Bowl.
He was jovial in every interview.
And of course, he sang “Two Tickets to Paradise” every chance he got.
While Joe Flacco is a close second, there is no player on the team that I am happier for than Ed Reed.
Photos like these will never fail to bring a huge grin to my face:
Since the Super Bowl, it’s been more of the same. Singing at the victory rally…
Enjoying Mardi Gras in his hometown…
…and just having the time of his life, seemingly.
Great to see.
All that said…
Today, one of our bloggers, Phil Gentile, wrote that it is time for the Ravens to say goodbye to Ed Reed. His arguments are sound – Reed is unlikely to take a significant pay cut, his play has diminished, and the team needs to get younger.
I can’t really refute any of that. My plea isn’t to the Ravens to do everything in their power to re-sign him.
Instead, I want to ask #20 to please just ride off into the sunset with his new Super Bowl XLVII ring, and retire.
If he retires today, Ed Reed would leave the game as the NFL’s all-time leader in interception return yardage, and tied for first in postseason interceptions. He is 10th in picks overall.
He won a championship.
He put together quite an impressive highlight reel, with multiple 100+ yard touchdowns on his resume.
He has nothing left to prove.
Although everything he has said since about mid-December has pointed to him returning to the NFL in 2013, we all know how quickly Ed can change his tune. Here’s hoping an offseason at home, with his family and his shiny new ring, will bring him the peace and clarity that he needs to look back on his career and decide that enough is enough.
Reed’s health issues are well documented. Since 2009, he’s played with a nerve impingement in his neck. He revealed in 2010 that it was only getting worse. While he’s managed to play with it for three seasons since, it’s still there.
He had surgery on his hip in 2010. Last season, he said that he was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Yes, every single NFL player that takes the field is, to some degree, taking their life and future in their hands – that’s just the reality of the game. But for Reed, an 11-year veteran with a dangerous neck injury, the stakes are even higher.
Again…he has nothing left to prove.
While it would, of course, boil my blood to see Reed take the field in another uniform in 2013 – New England or Indianapolis (most likely, in my mind), for instance – that’s not my biggest fear.
What worries me most is that Reed makes a hit the wrong way and ends up lying prone on the field, motionless. Whether or not he is wearing a Baltimore uniform in that scenario makes absolutely no difference.
Dear Ed Reed,
It has been a pleasure to watch you play in Baltimore for the past 11 seasons. You’ve made us jump up off our couches or out of our purple seats at M&T Bank Stadium in elation more times than we can count – and in anger a few times as well.
We spent way too much time arguing with silly Steeler fans about who was better, you or your friend and rival, Troy Polamalu. Until now, Troy had what you did not – a Super Bowl ring. Now that you’ve got that, those rag-wavers don’t have a leg to stand on. You’re unquestionably the greatest safety of your time, and arguably one of the best ever…certainly unmatched with the ball in your hands, which was a far too frequent occurrence for the tastes of opposing offenses.
You took the field with one of the greatest defensive players of all time as a teammate, and all that you did was force your own name into that conversation through your own stellar play and film study.
You managed to play through serious injuries and the prospect of losing your ability to walk every time you set foot on the turf.
There is no reason to put yourself at risk like that any more.
You’ve finally reached the top of the mountain in your sport.
Rather than playing for another team – one whose fan base has heckled and derided you for years, even while admiring your skills from afar – we ask that you retire as a member of the only team you have ever known, the Baltimore Ravens.
We’ll be forever grateful for your time in the Charm City.
And, in just over five years’ time, you’ll very likely find yourself standing next to #52 once more…as you both walk into Canton.
On that day, we promise to once again form a sea of purple for you to look out upon.
Hopefully you’ll give us “Two Tickets to Paradise” one last time.