For Reed, safety first

He might miss opener with nerve injury

August 30, 2008|By Jamison Hensley and Ken Murray | Jamison Hensley and Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed revealed yesterday that he has a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder, a condition that likely will keep him out of the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Hopefully, I can get back, but health is more important right now," Reed said. "It's a long season, and I feel like the team is going to need me more down the line than earlier and having to get hurt and can't play again."

Coach John Harbaugh was unavailable yesterday to speak about the lingering injury - Reed reported to training camp in July with the condition - but he previously acknowledged that Reed's availability for the opener was in question.

Reed said he doesn't need surgery at this time. When he does, he said, the operation would be career-ending.

"If I had surgery now, you wouldn't be interviewing me ever again," he said.

Dr. Bill Howard, director of the Arnold Palmer SportsHealth Center at Union Memorial Hospital, said nerve injuries heal a millimeter a month, depending on the length of the injury in the nerve.

"Generally, it will get better in its own time," Howard said. "The secret is not to make them worse. I don't think it's a career-ending injury, I really don't."

Reed has continued to practice, but he has not taken serious contact the entire offseason. He has missed all four preseason games with what the Ravens describe only as a shoulder injury.

During the past month, Reed said he has seen specialists for treatments in North Carolina, Michigan, Florida and New Jersey.

"I wanted to make sure there is nothing bad that can happen," Reed said. "I can still go out there and play as long as I take some safety precautions."

The injury is perplexing for Reed and the Ravens.

When a reporter asked Reed whether the injury limits his range of motion, he started an impromptu breakdance move, rolling his arms and neck.

"It's more in-depth than that," Reed said. "It's something I got to deal with. It won't go away, but I can do some things to prevent a lot."

Howard said a condition known as impingement syndrome in the shoulder - which is primarily caused by bones pushing together - can be treated with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone shots. "If none of that works, there's a relatively minor operation that does relieve it.

"Nerves have a mind of their own and heal on their own," Howard said. "You ride it out. ... If it's a chronic something or other pushing on the nerve, you may have to operate to relieve it."

Reed was named to his fourth Pro Bowl last season, when he finished with 45 tackles and a team-leading seven interceptions.

If Reed can't start, the Ravens likely will replace him with Jim Leonhard, a free-agent pickup from the Buffalo Bills.

"You're not getting pressured to play, but you know in the long run that this is a business," Reed said. "You're not helping if you're not out there. At the same time, you got to be smart about it."

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