Reed bucking for promotion

Ravens' late arrival gets work with 1st-string `D'

August 12, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As the education of Ed Reed continues, it's probably only a matter of time before Chad Williams drops a grade.

The Ravens began working Reed into the first-team defense yesterday, which means Williams might have only a week left as the team's starting free safety. Williams, a sixth-round pick, took over as starter during Reed's nine-day holdout and capitalized on the opportunity with an impressive performance in the preseason opener.

But Reed, the 24th overall selection in the draft, has the inside track in this race. The Ravens gave Reed a $3.635 million signing bonus earlier this month and need to get a return on that investment.

"Reed is going to work his way up - you know that," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Chad's been playing very, very well and is making a real bid to make this team and get playing time. You know Ed should take that spot, but he has missed time. It's not some bogus situation where he has to earn his way up. But I've got to be comfortable that he can survive out there."

Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan indicated Williams still has a shot to hold onto the starting job.

Williams, a three-year starter at Southern Mississippi, split time with Reed on the first team yesterday and will remain the starter for Thursday's preseason game against the New York Jets. Reed, though, will see substantial playing time in that game after not playing a down of defense in the preseason opener Friday.

The Ravens want to make a definitive choice heading into the final preseason game.

"Ed's got his work cut out for him as far as earning the job," Nolan said. "Being out didn't help him. It only helped the guy behind him. But he's certainly the guy we're counting on to make a step."

Reed, from the University of Miami, helped his case to stay with the first team yesterday. In a red-zone drill, he jumped on a quick pass to receiver Javin Hunter and tackled him at the 7-yard line for a minimal gain.

Reed, who was taken 185 spots ahead of Williams in the draft, said he isn't taking the starting spot for granted.

"I'm always fighting for the job," Reed said. "It's a competitive game. I got a lot of athletes in the secondary that want to play, too. I try not to worry about it, but you can't help not to worry about everybody else."

During his holdout, Reed missed nine practices, eight meetings and a scrimmage. The coaches still see the effects of the absence, but they want to measure his progress by giving him some time with the starting secondary.

"This is where we're kind of seeing if he can make his push," Nolan said. "He's going to have to speed things up. He's an intelligent guy and a good football player, so I think he should come back very quickly. But he's not there yet."

The Ravens aren't worried about Reed because they have been pleased with their backup plan. In Friday's game, Williams was physical and flew to the ball, racking up three tackles and breaking up a pass in one half of work.

He showed presence in pass defense when he closed quickly on a throw over the middle to Detroit Lions receiver Bill Schroeder and batted down the pass. Then, against the run, Williams bounced off a block from Detroit fullback Stephen Trejo and brought down running back Aveion Cason with a one-arm tackle from behind.

"You're thinking that Chad is real quiet," strong safety Anthony Mitchell said. "But he played loud. He has two different personalities."

Two days after that effort, Williams is sharing the starting job. And, most likely, he will return to being a backup in about a week.

"There's no disappointment on my part," Williams said. "I'm truly a role player, and I'm willing to accept my role on this team. It's going to take care of itself in the end anyway. You have to play hard, accept your role and be humble. If you're positive at all times, you can get through this."

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent:New York Jets

Site:Ravens Stadium

When:Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet, Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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