Ravens safety Ed Reed appears as dominant as ever.
This season, he earned his seventh Pro Bowl selection, led the NFL with eight interceptions and helped anchor a defense that allowed just 16.9 points per game - third fewest in the NFL - in 2010.
Not bad for someone who recently contemplated retirement due to injuries.
Reed has battled a nerve impingement in his neck the past three seasons and missed the first six games of this year following offseason hip surgery. He also is battling a rib injury he suffered following the second of his two interceptions in the Ravens 20-10 win last Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.
The 32-year-old Reed is in constant pain and is often unable to even practice during the week. Still, Reed appears ready to help lead the Ravens (12-4) deep into the playoffs, beginning with Sunday’s wildcard showdown at AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs (10-6). Reed said playing through pain and injuries has been tough, but he remains focused on staying on the field.
“After having surgery, that was something I had never been through,” Reed said. “That was a whole different pain. It’s been tough, but trainers have been doing a great job, my doctors have been doing a great job, and me personally, [I’m] just trying to stay up on it. There’s a lot of things I had to cut out and I couldn’t do and just didn’t do because I would much rather get the rest and get off my feet.”
Making a Difference
The injuries may have limited Reed’s presence on the field, but it has not slowed his impact of making a difference off of it. Reed grew up in St. Rose, La. and played college football at the University of Miami, but he has immersed himself in the Baltimore community ever since the Ravens selected him with the 24th pick overall in the 2002 NFL Draft.
His charitable organization, The Eye of the Hurricane Foundation, supports community outreach in Baltimore and in Louisiana. In addition to hosting football camps at Destrehan (La.) and Randallstown High Schools, Reed adopted Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore.
His L.O.R.D.S. program (Leadership, Order, Respect, Discipline, Success) provides incentives for students who reach certain goals based on homework completion, attendance and behavior at the school.
Reed also visits Booker T. Washington Middle School regularly, provides the youth with necessary tools to succeed (school supplies, etc.) and donates tickets to students for Ravens home games. In addition, Reed annually provides Thanksgiving dinner baskets to families of Booker T. Washington students.
Reed was also recognized for his outstanding community service when he received the Whitney M. Young Award by the Greater Baltimore Urban League in 2007 and was also named the Ravens’ recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2009.
That combination of on-the-field dominance and off-the-field charitable work led Ravens tight end Todd Heap to select Reed as this year’s honoree at his “Heap of Hope” event on Monday.
The event, held at the Hilton Baltimore, was a fundraiser for Franklin Square Hospital Center. Heap pledged to raise $1 million for the hospital, which named its new pediatric center in Heap's honor.
“Ed Reed is one of the most complex players on our team,” Heap said. “He’s spectacular on the field and has done amazing work off of it. The theme of this event every year is to find the player that has made the biggest difference in the community and Ed has definitely done that.”
Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said Reed is an inspiration for all of the players on the team and his impact is immeasurable.
“Ed is a first and foremost a great friend to everyone on the team and is the greatest safety of all time in my mind,” Carr said. “He just so humble and treats everyone the same whether you are a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
“Whenever you have a guy like that who is so comfortable with everyone, it gives the team more confidence on the field. Plus, to see all of the work he’s done off the field, makes Ed an even more spectacular person.”
While Reed plans on continuing his charitable work in the future, his immediate focus is on the Chiefs and trying to lead the Ravens back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the franchise won its lone Vince Lombardi Trophy a decade ago.
Winning a Super Bowl is one of the few accolades that has eluded Reed in his Hall of Fame Career. His 54 career interceptions ranks first among all NFL players since he entered the league in 2002, as do his 1,438 interceptions return yards. Additionally, his 26.6-yard return average ranks first in NFL history among players with at least 30 interceptions.
However, while Reed wants to win the NFL’s ultimate prize, he’s not going to let that chase consume him.
“You just want to be successful throughout the season and have a chance to play right now in January, and try to get to The Dance,” Reed said. “I’m not basing my career off of one game, or getting to one game, even though that is the ultimate goal of all of us once we come here. But, we all know how that goes. At the end of it, we’ll see how it goes, assess it. But right now, we’re focused on this week and will go from there.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said Reed’s return from injury provided the team with the spark they needed heading into the postseason. The Ravens enter Sunday’s game having won four straight and are 8-2 since Reed’s return.
“Ed’s huge for our team,” Flacco said. “He’s been around Baltimore awhile and made a huge impact on the field and in the community for the work he has done. He’s a big impact on the field and every team we play is aware of that.”