OWINGS MILLS — Breaking his silence for the first time in nearly two months, Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed isn’t optimistic regarding his prospects of playing Sunday against the Oakland Raiders due to a slightly torn groin muscle that has sidelined him for the past four games.
In the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year’s estimation, he’s a major long shot to play Sunday while not completely ruling out the possibility.
“I tried to give it a go last week, and I really couldn’t,” Reed told a small group of reporters Wednesday. “I really couldn’t play, shoot, 50 percent, all the way. Seven days later, will it be different? I doubt it. Not really. So, I don’t think so.”
Reed downplayed the chances of him not practicing all week and then running out on the field Sunday to take part in a crucial game that the Ravens have to win in order to clinch a playoff berth.
“Honestly, it will be a game-time decision,” said Reed, who attended practice Wednesday and didn’t participate. “It’s a really hard decision when you don’t practice. I want to be out there. I want to play in every game, but when you get hurt you’re just got to be smart about it and try to get back and come back as best you can.”
Reed’s status has been surrounded by rumors as to whether he’ll play or not, including one report stating that players were told that Ravens coach John Harbaugh overruled Reed from playing during a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harbaugh has denied that report, and Reed called it a lie.
“Me and coach didn’t have anything at all,” Reed said. “Honestly, he asked me what I think. I told him I could probably give him about 15 plays. That’s not my type of play. We made a decision that I would not play because we need the roster spot to give somebody a break on special teams.”
And Reed has denied reports that he’ll definitely play this week against the Raiders.
Speaking in a quiet, calm voice, Reed seemed genuinely confused about where the reports are stemming from. And he says it’s not him.
Reed’s agent, Eugene Mato, hasn’t exactly been shy about offering updates on the six-time Pro Bowl safety, but it doesn’t seem like the information he has been disseminating has been accurate.
The fact that the Ravens haven’t placed Reed on injured reserve is telling because it suggests that they’re holding out hope that he could contribute in the postseason if they qualify.
“I was laying in the bed last night and saw ESPN reported that I was possibly playing,” Reed said. “I mean, I was possibly playing the last couple weeks. There is no change. I’m not up right now, so I don’t know where they’re getting their information from, but it’s wrong.
“[Reporters] seem to know the decision before I even make it. It’s funny, but none of it is right. I don’t really pay no mind to it.”
Minutes after saying he was reluctant to play a limited role when he’s used to headlining the Ravens’ defense as an aggressive impact player, Reed said that he wouldn’t have a problem with it.
“I’ll be like a sixth man off the bench,” Reed said. “Going into the playoffs, not knowing if I’m going to play this week and not knowing if I’m going to play next week, it’s hard. But if I can be that sixth man off the bench, I’ll be that.”
Reed was named to the Pro Bowl this week despite playing in just 11 games with three interceptions after picking off a league-high nine passes last season.
It was a nod to his reputation and his skill when healthy.
“I just play football,” he said. “I’ll let the naysayers and the accolades pick all that stuff. I don’t worry about that. It’s a great honor. I just take it in stride.”
Starting in place of Reed for the past month, second-year safety Tom Zbikowski has had his moments.
He intercepted a pass against the Steelers in the final minutes that was wiped out by Frank Walker’s illegal contact penalty.
And the former third-round draft pick from Notre Dame intercepted one pass against the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
He has received some mentoring from Reed.
“I always knew Zibby could step right in and play ball,” Reed said. “Zibby is one of the best disguisers and coverage range men. I knew he could play, and I’m sure the coaches knew the same thing.
“He has the mental game to go along with his athletic ability, so it’s like our defense really hasn’t lost a step at all.”
Named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl for his work on special teams, Zbikowski has been picking up as many tips as possible from Reed and secondary coaches Chuck Pagano and Mark Carrier.
“I never really got a chance like this before,” Zbikowski said. “I’m getting those game reps, and everyone is feeding me new stuff to learn. I’m having fun out there.”