Ed Reed Retires As One Of A Kind

Even on the day he announced his retirement, Ed Reed was one of a kind.

On Thursday, Reed signed his final contract and officially retired as a Baltimore Raven.

The man who spent 11 seasons with the Ravens (2002-2012) and one with the Texans and Jets (2013) will be on the Ravens' 90-man roster until 4 p.m. Friday, then will be placed on the team's reserve/retired list.

"Home is here," Reed said. "Home has always been in Baltimore."

As Reed walked into his retirement press conference, the organization showed a video featuring some of Reed's greatest plays and moments. Reed hardly paid it any attention. Instead, he circled the room dapping up and hugging his former teammates and coaches. 

When asked to name one play from his career that stuck out most, Reed didn't even point to a play that he made. It was an interception that former Ravens cornerback Cary Williams made against Tom Brady in the 2012 AFC championship, sealing Reed and the team's trip to Super Bowl XLVII.

On Thursday, Reed spent more time talking about uplifting the Baltimore community and his thoughts on life rather than reminiscing about football.

Reed rambled. And it was so Ed Reed, and thus, in its own special way, perfect.

Reed was special in large part because only Reed knew what Reed was going to do.

He played within the confines of the Ravens defense (just on a very long leash). And what some people have called guesses were actually highly educated decisions.

Quarterbacks never knew what he was going to do. Neither did opposing offensive coordinators. Neither did his own coaches sometimes.

One of Reed's plays that stuck out most to Head Coach John Harbaugh was an interception the free safety made when he shouldn't have even been in the same zip code as the ball. Reed had studied film on the Dolphins quarterback and knew where he would throw the ball on that formation in that situation. The next day, Harbaugh asked Reed how in the world he made the pick.

"I was cheering during the game, but when we got back on Monday, I had to ask. 'What exactly made you get that route?'" Harbaugh said. "He took me through it step-by-step. He taught me football."

What also made Reed's retirement unique was that it came out of nowhere. He did it his own way.

Some thought Reed should hang it up after writing the perfect script, with gray in his beard, at Super Bowl XLVII. He notched an interception in that game and was part of the defense that protected the Ravens' lead on a final goal-line stand.

But Reed gave it one more year, signing with the Houston Texans and then after he was released heading east to the New York Jets later that same year. At 34-years-old and after multiple surgeries, Reed had a challenging year but still finished with three interceptions in his final four NFL games.

After the 2013 season ended, Reed floated off into his own world. He indicated interest in playing some more, but wasn't in any big hurry. He kept doing what he loves, which is training and being around the game of football.

So what made Reed make his retirement official? Once again, it was one-of-a-kind circumstances.

Reed made the decision on April 26th. He was reading a book, "Uneven Lies," about African-Americans in golf, and it spoke to him. At the same time, there was civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.

"I just felt it in my spirit," Reed said. "Once everything transpired here in Baltimore … it just felt right. … I just knew it in my heart of hearts that it was time to come home to retire."

What some people don't know, and what also makes him special, is his commitment to the community.

Growing up poor outside of New Orleans, Reed knew the struggle many people go through. He spent his entire career helping Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore, and is still involved there. He's trying to build football fields across the country.

"We're in a place where we need to be giving back to our youngsters," Reed said. "Now that I have that time, I've been doing it more, and it just feels right."

Still, Reed made sure to make a distinction between retiring and walking away from the game that he loves so much. And there was a sense that despite retiring, Reed still thinks he could play.

He joked that he tried to convince General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh to give him three days on the 90-man roster – or "maybe even one year."

"It's tough, man. I'm retiring," Reed said. "I'm not hanging my cleats up yet. I'll still work out. When Coach [Harbaugh] first saw me, he said 'You look like you still could go.' I'm like, '*Look *like I still could go?'"

Perhaps, someday, Newsome will hire Reed once again, this time in a coaching or mentoring role. Reed said he wants to stay around the game and has expressed his interest in coaching.

The next time Newsome will see Reed will be on Nov. 22 when Reed goes into the Ravens Ring of Honor. The NFL Hall of Fame in Canton would be the next step, and Reed will first be eligible in 2019.

Reed's statistics make a very strong case. He finished sixth all-time in interceptions (64), first in interception yards (1,590), and has the two longest interception returns in NFL history. The nine-time Pro Bowler is the only player in league history to score return touchdowns off a punt return, blocked punt, interception and fumble recovery.

As one Ravens fan said upon news of Reed's retirement, there were times when it seemed Reed was the team's best offensive weapon. He was most certainly one of their most clutch.

"I had the privilege of watching him play," Newsome said. "Whenever we knew it was time for a play to be made, we would all say to ourselves, 'It's Ed Reed time.'"

The only reason Reed may not have gotten more attention or credit is because he played alongside another one of the best players in NFL defensive history, linebacker Ray Lewis. Reed called Lewis a big brother, and joked that Lewis was Mufasa and he was Simba from "The Lion King."

"Very similar in just different positions, that's all," said Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees, who coached both players. "He has all the physical skills – speed, range, ball skills – but what set him apart is just football IQ and instincts.

"Ed was one of those special guys where you'd never want to make a robot out of him. He knew way ahead of everybody else what was going to go on. He was going to be where he needed to be when he needed to be there, and you could count on it."

Nobody will ever accuse Reed of being a robot. He rarely stuck to the script – not even on the day he retired.

Take a look back at the historical 12-year career of the best ball hawk of all time.

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