Will Reed stay or will he go?

Injuries will determine star safety's decision

January 19, 2010|By Ken Murray | ken.murray@baltsun.com

Ed Reed shuffled out the door toward an uncertain football future Monday, undecided whether to retire or return to the Ravens for a ninth NFL season.

Seated in his white SUV in the players' parking lot, the six-time Pro Bowl safety told The Baltimore Sun that he needed to consult with personal doctors about a hip injury before making any career decisions.

He seemed genuinely concerned about his health and in particular about the hip. He said there are ligament tears in the hip, although nothing is completely torn.

"There was a lot of risk," Reed said when asked about playing the season with a variety of injuries.

Reed, 31, started the first 11 games of the season, but came out of the first Pittsburgh Steelers game with the hip injury. He was inactive for the next four weeks - listed on the team's injury report with hip, ankle and groin issues - before returning to play in Oakland against the Raiders in Week 17.

For the past two years, Reed has been troubled by an impinged nerve in his neck and shoulder that he characterized as career-threatening.

In the aftermath of Saturday's 20-3 AFC divisional-round playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Reed told reporters he was contemplating retirement because of his injuries.

If that was Reed's final game in a Ravens uniform, it was symbolic of his playmaking career. In the space of six plays, he twice intercepted quarterback Peyton Manning in the third quarter with the Ravens still in striking distance at 17-3.

Reed returned the first interception 38 yards to the Colts' 27, where Pierre Garcon punched the ball out from behind and the fumble was recovered by Indianapolis. Reed intercepted Manning again on the next series and returned it 54 yards to the Indianapolis 11. But a pass interference call on Corey Ivy erased the pick and led to the Colts' final points of the game.

Upon learning that Reed might retire, the Ravens were either in denial or hoping that he returns. Injured safety Haruki Nakamura said he sent Reed a text message: "You better not retire."

Nakamura and second-year safety Tom Zbikowski were among the young players who benefited from working with Reed.

"I think he understands that more than just a player, he's actually a big role model for guys like me and Zbikowski, and even [veteran] Dawan Landry," Nakamura said. "It's one of those things where he plays such a big role in other people's careers that I think he knows that he's still got a lot to give to the game. He's still playing at a high level."

Reed has more to give to the community, as well. He said if he does retire, his foundation, the Ed Reed Eye of the Hurricane Foundation, would continue to help students at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore. Reed devotes time, energy and money to that cause.

Over 131 career games with the Ravens, including postseason, Reed has 53 interceptions, seven returned for touchdowns. In 2004, he was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL. This season, he was named to his fourth straight Pro Bowl.

If he does retire, Reed said, he has aspirations of becoming a coach, first at the college level.

Rookie Lardarius Webb, who idolized Reed before he joined the Ravens this season, hopes Reed comes back but understands if he doesn't.

"He'll make the best decision for his health," Webb said. "I would love to play with him for a couple more years, not just one. But if he decides to retire, one day I hope I can take that throne."

Baltimore Sun reporters Jamison Hensley and Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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