OWINGS MILLS — Sweating profusely after a practice where he intercepted two passes and dashed into the end zone for a touchdown off a Ray Lewis lateral, Ed Reed smiled, nodded and struck an entirely different tone than his combative, cryptic offseason remarks.
The Baltimore Ravens’ mercurial star free safety spent his spring and summer dropping hints at a potential holdout, contemplated retirement and skipped a mandatory minicamp, a finable offense under the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
Now that he’s ensconced again with the defending AFC North champions after being absent for the entire offseason, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has informed general manager Ozzie Newsome that he wants to remain with the Ravens on a long-term basis.
“Talks have already been there,” Reed said. “I know Ozzie and them know I want to be here. We will get that done when it’s time to cross that bridge. I’m dealing with football right now, and they know that. I’m focused on the season. That’s all I’m worried about right now.
“I have a lot of respect for this organization. They know I’m assessing myself year to year. Would I like to play more? Of course, but what the body tells you is something different. That’s something that you always deal with after the season. When we cross that bridge, you guys will know.”
Reed, 33, is heading into the final season of a six-year, $40 million contract.
Due a $7.2 million base salary this season, Reed hasn’t made it a secret that he regards himself as underpaid.
He reiterated that the primary reason he wasn’t around the team since the end of last season was a desire to spend as much time as possible with his family, which includes his son, and determining if he still had the desire to play.
Reed has a blunt, honest, outspoken style of communicating. He doesn’t mince words. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. And he tends to be sensitive to criticism.
“I’m here,” Reed said. “What transpired months back transpired. What happened because of what I deal with family-wise and what I’ve been going through for the last 11 years now in the league, there’s always a time where you have to assess yourself. Guys don’t be as vocal with it, but when you’re dealing with the business side of it, too, that’s something that you have to deal with.”
The Ravens approached the Reed camp last season about a potential contract extension. The talks ultimately went nowhere in part because Reed has no agent representing him, according to NFL Players Association records.
Reed fired South Florida agent Eugene Mato, and his rookie contract was negotiated by Jeff Moorad.
Several agents have tried to get Reed to hire them, but he has rebuffed them.
Reed doesn’t give his trust easily, and tends to keep a tight circle of financial advisers that includes friends Brad Davis and Brad Schwartz.
“Being that I don’t have an agent, I don’t know how they’re going to go about it,” Reed said. “I know we tried to deal with things last season. That’s why things have been talked about the way they have been because I am dealing it with myself. That’s the way I choose to go about it. In this business because there’s a lot of stuff that you have to deal with it, I didn’t want a middle man in between it. You do need somebody to say the things that you’re not able to say because you’re in the business.”
The Ravens never responded to Reed’s comments other than expressing confidence that he would ultimately show up.
And Reed reported on time for the first day of training camp last week.
“I did,” secondary coach Teryl Austin said when asked if he expected Reed to show up all along. “The one thing about Ed is he’s a professional, loves this game, prepares like no other and to stay away from it probably would have been really hard for him. I’m glad he’s back with us, moving full speed ahead. Any secondary, if you take a Hall of Famer out of it, they would be hurting.
“They don’t throw at him very often. I know everybody was writing a lot of stuff about Ed, but a lot of that [success] is due to Ed because that ball doesn’t just fly down the field. Because if it does, there’s a good chance he’s going to track it down and get it.”
Reed recorded 52 tackles and three interceptions last season.
However, he dealt with tackling issues stemming from a shoulder injury and a nerve impingement in his neck that has bothered him for the last few seasons.
“Those things are still there,” Reed said. “I haven’t had a nerve impingement surgery yet. It’s still there. I had a stinger against Jacksonville, nothing that I haven’t had since high school. Those things are still a part of football. You just have to be a smart football player to make sure you are doing the rehab, the things you need to do to get yourself ready for the grueling part of a season.”
“I cross those bridges when I do in a game. I might lay on the ground for a half of a second or two seconds or may come out for a play, but I have always come back and finished the game. If it ain’t nothing tragic, God forbid, and I can come back and play, that what I do. If it’s something that is going to take me out of the game, I would hope that they do what they are supposed to do to keep me out and protect me from myself.”
Reed has intercepted 57 career passes since being drafted in the first round by the Ravens out of the University of Miami in 2002. He’d like to conclude his career with the defending AFC North champions.
“I have a lot of respect for this organization,” Reed said. “I know they have respect for me. The disrespectful thing that I talked about was something that was dealt with when it came to me seeing doctors and stuff like that. That’s something you deal with. It’s no different than what regular folks go through on their jobs. This is a job. That’s what a lot of people miss. There’s a lot that we deal with.”
“I know the Ravens know I wanted to be here. I wouldn’t give myself to the football team like I do if I didn’t want to be here, but there’s a business side to it. Not every story plays out to be what you want it to be. When we cross that bridge, you guys will know.”
One thing that hasn’t changed about Reed’s game is his tendency to gamble on the field, or his confident approach.
The Ravens face several quarterbacks that have won Super Bowls this season, including Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
“So? Bring them on, man,” Reed said. “I’m sure they are going to game-plan like they always do — write on their wristband and know I’m there and all that. I welcome them. I look forward to them. That’s probably a question for you critics who said that Ed Reed has lost it, but they won’t throw my way. How have I lost it if they are not throwing my way?”