His play speaks volumes

Meticulous preparation helps low-key star change games

Ed Reed

August 14, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

The only place Ed Reed appears outspoken is on the field, where instinct, preparation and ability merge to create one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL.

Reed is one of the few Ravens stars without a radio or television show. His locker is next to the door at the team facility in Owings Mills, assuring a quick escape from the media invasion. And he performs his many charitable works out of the limelight.

But put him in the field of play and you've got an athlete whose passion for the game is unquenchable.

"I guarantee you," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said yesterday, "he's always been the quarterback, always been the safety, probably was a point guard in basketball.

"He runs the show - and knows the game. Any game. He'd be a playmaker in anything he did."

Reed, in his seventh season at free safety for the Ravens, is one of the league's top playmakers. He has gone to four Pro Bowls in six years. He has 34 interceptions in 90 games.

In 2004, he recorded a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown on the same play. He has scored eight career touchdowns, coming four ways (punt return, fumble return, interception and blocked punt).

Reed, 29, is not only a playmaker, but a game changer.

Coach John Harbaugh gave his illustration of that the other day.

"Having coached a secondary, you have a good idea of the picture you look for back there," Harbaugh said. "Ed is good enough to change the picture just a little bit.

"In other words, he doesn't have to be [positioned] quite as deep or quite as wide or quite as tight as another guy would, and still be in position to make the play. You see why he's made so many plays over the years, kind of by baiting quarterbacks a little bit. He's got a real knack for that."

Reed has made his living by baiting quarterbacks. He studies opponents' tapes voraciously for hints that help diagnose plays. He has an uncanny ability to be right most of the time.

The few times he's been burned, he's worn the label of freelancer and gambler.

Ryan, a man who ought to know, says that's a false perception.

"No," Ryan said when asked whether Reed plays outside the structure of the defense.

"We don't want robots [on defense], and we don't want the offense to know exactly what we're in. Ed will move around. Ed's always in the structure of the defense. If he's not, we've missed a call or something like that. Nothing ever has been intentional where he's been out of position. I think what happens is, people see him moving around and think he's [freelancing]."

Reed is afforded the leeway to move around because he knows the defense like a coach and understands the scheme.

"He knows the defense so well, he knows the strengths, the weaknesses of it," Ryan said. "He knows what the offense is trying to do. He's a great student of the game. When that opportunity to make a play happens, he makes it. He doesn't drop it."

Strong safety Dawan Landry, who was indoctrinated into the NFL by Reed, came to appreciate the game through Reed's eyes.

"He's a real cerebral guy," Landry said. "He helped me get up to speed, watching film and learning the game."

Reed began studying game film in high school back in St. Rose, La. He became more proficient at it at the University of Miami. As a first-round pick by the Ravens in 2002, he took it to a science under teammate Ray Lewis.

"This is a full-time job, so if you want to be great ... the film study is what separates you from the guys who don't do that stuff," Reed said. "Coming here and working with a veteran team - Ray Lewis, sitting down with him - that's just something that keeps getting better over time."

Ravens secondary coach Mark Carrier knew about Reed's athletic prowess before he joined the staff in 2006. He didn't anticipate his intelligence.

"He has an understanding of the game," Carrier said. "A lot of guys are smart or have street smarts. This kid has both. He sees the game at a slower pace."

Reed has participated minimally in team drills through training camp because of a nerve condition in his shoulder. Harbaugh said he expects Reed to be ready for the season opener Sept. 7.

Reed isn't so sure, acknowledging he may need surgery to resolve the problem after his career. For the past week, he has been wearing a red jersey in practice to signify he shouldn't be hit.

Even so, Reed's zeal for the game shows through.

"Look at him out on the practice field today," Ryan said. "We're short [defensive backs], so he's running at scout team corner. He's a great team guy, whether on the game field or practice field. He loves to play and compete."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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