Most fans and media members expect Ed Reed to return for the Ravens’ 2010 season. Even his coach expects the former Defensive Player of the Year to be back patrolling the middle of the Ravens’ defense.
“Ed Reed is playing, as far as I know,” John Harbaugh said during the NFL scouting combines. “I think Ed is one of the greatest competitors in football. I’ve said I think Ed’s going to play because I think Ed’s going to do everything he can to play. If he’s physically able to play, he will play.”
In other words, Harbaugh really doesn’t know.
Here’s more proof…
“Right now, my assumption is he’s going to be able to [play]. If that changes or Ed changes his mind, that’s obviously his prerogative. He hasn’t told the team that he’s not going to play and medically we don’t have any reason to think that he won’t right now.”
From what I’ve been told, one of the reasons Harbaugh doesn’t know if his All World free safety is returning is because Reed himself can’t answer the question, “Should I stay or should I go now?”
Reed is a somewhat quirky guy and like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, sometimes with No. 20, you just never know what you’re going to get.
Sometimes he’s in a good mood.
Sometimes he broods.
One day he is thinking about a contract extension.
The next day he’s contemplating retirement.
Now I don’t mean to make light of Reed’s situation. Here’s a player who is really not a very big guy yet has played with reckless abandon his entire life. Players he’s responsible for, those he’s asked to deliver shots to when they cross the middle of the field – players like Alge Crumpler and Antonio Gates, outweigh him by 70+ pounds. Think about that!
Then think about a neck and shoulder nerve impingement that can send shooting pains through the body after an average impact. Now take that unpleasant thought and mix it with the centrifugal force that is the byproduct of two supremely conditioned athletes running at top end speed towards each other.
Trust me. I’ve knelt 5 yards away from the sideline as these players dash past me during practice. You can feel the breeze as these big men who run extremely fast pass you by.
The collisions that ensue are on par with sprinting right into an SUV that you didn’t see.
The pain can be indescribable.
Yet the player gets up, dusts himself off, goes back to the huddle and prepares to do it again.
There’s more than just money that motivates an athlete to tackle such challenges. The competitive fire that burns within provides strength and inspires them to buckle the chin strap one more time.
Pride does its part as well although now Reed is wondering if such feelings of self-respect and personal worth are enough anymore to put himself in harm’s way and downgrade the status of his injury from intermittent to permanent.
Some would say that he’s mastered the art of playing through the lingering injury over the past two seasons. But that’s easy for any of us to say. We don’t have to experience and live with the pain.
Reed’s teammate and close friend Samari Rolle experienced a similar injury and after one surgery, Rolle expects at least another to help remove the pain that lingers and reminds him daily of the price an athlete pays sometimes in perpetuity for the privilege of playing in the National Football League.
From what I hear, Rolle is leaning on Reed to retire, to look at the big picture and consider the thought, “enough is enough.” He doesn’t want his friend’s injury to become a permanent scar.
Pride carries Reed forward.
For the man let’s hope it isn’t of the foolish variety and that he makes a thoroughly thoughtful choice.
Don’t be surprised if No. 20 walks away.
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