For Reed, patience is key to unlocking superstardom

On the Ravens

August 04, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

THE WORD came as relief, and it could provide comfort for the rest of the season if Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed can maintain himself.

When asked what the hardest thing was that he has learned in his first three years in the NFL, Reed said: patience. It rolled off his lips slowly, like it had been a tough lesson.

"Just be patient. A lot of things will happen over time, so just be patient," said Reed, who led the league with nine interceptions.

Maybe Reed is growing up. Only a season ago, it seemed that success had come too fast for the former Miami Hurricane. Every thing was about "I." This was his world; the rest of us just lived in it.

As members of the media, we try to get to know professional athletes as much as possible to paint accurate public profiles.

But we don't really know a lot of these guys. With Reed, though, a lot of us, including Ravens officials, saw a change in his attitude.

In the two previous seasons, he had lived up to his nickname: "Easy Ed." As a Christian, he often talked about his relationship with Jesus Christ. He was humble, often smiled a lot, talked to anyone who would strike up a conversation with him and became a media favorite.

But on his way to the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award and a second straight Pro Bowl appearance, Reed's head got as big as the Goodyear blimp. He walked away from coaches when they attempted to correct him. He became moody and unapproachable after losses. He made flip remarks about being selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

In December, he failed to show up for the Quarterback Club's Player of the Year Award, which enraged a lot of local fans and members of the corporate community.

Then, shortly after the 2004 season, a team official told members of the Ravens' coaching staff that Reed's agent had threatened to hold him out of training camp if the Ravens did not give him an extension, even though Reed had one more year on his contract.

The old Reed and the new Reed were on opposite ends.

"It's all part of the growing process, of guys maturing," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "Guys get old, they get married and have families. They get different perspectives on life. We all change."

At times, it seemed as though Reed couldn't find his place on the team. He had clearly become the team's premier playmaker, but this won't become his team until Ray Lewis leaves or retires.

He wasn't as flashy as Deion Sanders, couldn't dance like Terrell Suggs and wasn't as loquacious as Adalius Thomas.

At Miami, he was the heart of the team. In Baltimore, Reed was still searching for his voice, his place and recognition.

"Basically, you try to help him through it because there are some pitfalls here," Billick said. "You try to help him find his rhythm, for the lack of a better word, on the team. It's harder than a lot of people think."

Privately, the Ravens silenced Reed months ago by telling him his contract will be extended, but not before those of tight end Todd Heap and running back Jamal Lewis, both of whom had been with the Ravens longer.

Heap got a new deal in June, and Lewis has already started preliminary negotiations with general manager Ozzie Newsome. Reed has only mentioned his contract in training camp when asked by reporters. Other than that, it's a non-issue.

All Reed wants to talk about now is football. He talks about the team getting its defensive swagger back. He looks forward to teams game-planning against him, and going against some of the league's best quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper and David Carr.

He gets giddy about the Ravens' new 46 defense and the possibility of blitzing more.

A new contract? Superstardom? It will all come in time. Patience.

"I could name a boatload of guys that are going through similar situations. You have so many guys: Hines Ward, Terrell Owens, Javon Walker," said Reed. "But everybody knows what needs to be done. It's just a matter of time."

Reed appears at peace. He seems to have found his niche both on the field and in the locker room. In the 46 scheme, Reed will be the lone safety in the secondary, but his game won't change.

He'll continue to gamble as the last line of defense, but it's not a great risk. Reed takes gambles because he is so disciplined in his preparation. He's a playmaker in any situation.

"We want him to be aggressive, to take shots when we need him to, but he'll have the patience needed, also," said Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

The 2005 year could be bigger than last season for Reed. He's on everybody's radar screen now. Despite some problems last season, he appears to have a big heart, a player who spends countless hours in deprived neighborhoods giving camps and lectures.

He's got an affection for kids and a warm, wonderful smile, the kind that could eventually make him millions in endorsements.

It's all there for Ed Reed, if he continues to mature and show patience.

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