Superman

Reed's game-changing heroics on the field have won him the affection of fellow Ravens

December 10, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

How do you define a player who can do almost anything imaginable on a football field, who can leverage a game with the ability to deliver two or three big plays every week?

How do you define Ravens safety Ed Reed?

By the 39 passes he has intercepted in his NFL career, five returned for touchdowns?

By the 11 total touchdowns he has scored over seven seasons?

By extraordinary return skills that produced touchdowns of 106 and 107 yards, and the two longest interception returns in NFL history?

By the havoc he creates on special teams, where three times he not only blocked a punt but also carried it in for a touchdown?

By his well-known devotion to film study and attention to detail?

By his four Pro Bowl and three All-Pro selections?

One more question: What new titles are there for a player who can do all that?

Derrick Mason has one.

Superman.

"I kidded with you guys when I said I was just able to be Superman out there, but No. 20, I mean, that guy is Superman for real," the Ravens wide receiver said after Reed hijacked the Washington Redskins for three turnovers that became, directly or indirectly, 14 points Sunday night. "He is truly one of a kind at that position."

Reed, No. 20, has four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, in the past three games. Aside from the timeliness as the Ravens push for the playoffs, it is remarkable for one other reason: He's doing it on a bad leg and with a troublesome neck.

He arrived at training camp with a nerve impingement in his neck that resulted in a reduced number of blitz opportunities. He strained his hamstring last month and missed practice time because of it.

"He's definitely not 100 percent," safety Jim Leonhard said. "The guy's just a great player. He gets his looks in practice, does the work he needs to do and goes out there and makes plays."

On a defense that features the thunder of perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis in the front end, Reed brings lightning from the back with his ability to intuit plays. At 5 feet 11 and a slender 200 pounds, he has great athleticism. His improvisational skills are among the best in the league. His knowledge is keen, derived from hours of film study every week.

Which trait is more important?

"It's a combination of all of them," Leonhard said. "I think you start with athleticism. There are certain things he can do that most other safeties in this league can't do. Everything else kind of feeds into that."

Playing under defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Reed is always in the right place at the right time, a perfect storm of big-play potential.

"They let him kind of roam a little more than a lot of systems," Leonhard said. "It plays to his strength. He's not a safety you want to tell, 'You have to be here, you have to do this.' He needs that creative freedom. They do a great job of letting him be him."

Superman ... or Most Valuable Player? Ravens coach John Harbaugh says Reed should be in the MVP conversation.

"I don't see how you can not put him in there," Harbaugh said. "He scores on defense. He makes plays every single week. If he's not an MVP candidate, I don't know who is."

His teammates are no longer surprised by Reed's exploits.

"It's to the point now where he's been amazing for so long that you expect him to make those plays," tight end Todd Heap said.

Said cornerback Fabian Washington: "He's very intelligent. He knows what routes are coming."

Added defensive end Trevor Pryce: "He's one of the spectacular players in the NFL. That's one of the most spectacular players I have ever been around, period."

And when he delivers a game like Sunday night's, no defining of Reed is needed.

"You just shake your head," Leonhard said.

TOUCHDOWN THREAT

Ed Reed's 11 career touchdowns:

Date/Game .................. Touchdown ............. Result

12/7/08 vs. Wash. ... 22-yard fumble return ........ W

11/23/08 vs. Phil. ... 107-yard INT return* ............ W

9/21/08 vs. Clev. ...... 32-yard INT return ............... W

9/10/07 @ Cin. ....... 63-yard punt return ............... L

11/5/06 vs. Cin. ........ 25-yard INT return ............... W

11/7/04 vs. Clev. ..... 106-yard INT return ............. W

10/10/04 @ Wash. .. 22-yard fumble return ........ W

11/23/03 vs. Sea. .. 16-yard punt-block return .. W

10/12/03 @ Ariz. ... 22-yard punt-block return .. W

9/14/03 vs, Clev. ........ 54-yard INT return ........... W

11/24/02 vs. Tenn. .. 11-yard punt-block return . W

* NFL record

STEELERS (10-3) @RAVENS (9-4)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2

Inside: Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle opens up in this week's Q&A. PG 4

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