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Ed Reed has an air of mystery about him, both on and off the field. He is a bright and thoughtful guy, but he doesn't talk to the press much. He lets his actions speak for themselves, and seldom tips his hand on any subject. And he's the same way on the field. Opposing teams hate playing him because they can't read him like they can read other players. He comes out of nowhere and surprises them.
The Ravens have benefitted enormously from his mysterious persona; he has won many games by coming out of nowhere to make big plays. But for much of this offseason, the Ravens suddenly were just like everyone else, trying to figure the guy out.
Reed, who has played with chronic injuries for several seasons, initially said he was 50-50 on coming back for another season. Then no one heard from him for awhile – not even his employers, apparently. In a March Q-and-A session with the Baltimore Sun, Ravens owner Steve Biscotti said he wouldn't call up Reed and ask the safety about his status. A month later, the news dribbled out that Reed had undergone hip surgery, seemingly signaling his desire to continue playing but also leaving his 2010 status unclear. Reed himself never commented, at least not publicly.
When Reed spoke to 105.7 The Fan on July 6, I didn't hear the interview live, and I admit, I was annoyed when I saw he had talked about, of all things, asking for a new contract. Huh? You break your silence to ask for more money? That's not cool. And surely an individual as savvy as Reed knows that a player who publicly contemplates retirement and then undergoes major offseason surgery is in no position to demand a raise.
But I had a better feeling about everything after I read a transcript of the entire interview. First of all, he didn't break his silence just to ask for money. He granted the interview to promote his youth football camp later this month. Players do that kind of thing all the time.
And as for a new contract, it was clear he had thought about it and would love one; he mentioned other safeties who have signed big deals, such as Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams, and seemed to infer he deserved to make more. But he also said, "I'm not asking the Ravens about anything if I'm not going to play much longer." In other words, he understood entirely that he currently is in no position to talk about a new deal.
If he blundered, it was in mentioning the subject at all. He is already one of the highest-paid Ravens, set to earn a reportedly $6 million in 2010, $6.5 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2012 in the final year of the six-year, $40 million deal he signed in 2007. Not bad for a guy who admitted he might not be ready to play this season until October, November or December.
But if you read the entire interview, you see that Reed covered numerous subjects, including the economy, the Gulf oil spill, NFL labor negotiations. Just like he plays the game, he was flitting around, dipping in and out, giving people a rare sense of what it is like to be Ed Reed, the mysterious All-Pro. He mentioned the possibility of a new deal, but he offered caveats, context and moved on. It didn't dominate the discussion.
Frankly, I thought the biggest news nugget was that Reed, at the very least, probably isn't going to play anywhere close to 16 games in 2010. That's not good news for the Ravens. Now you know why they felt compelled to sign Hamlin, who will compete with Tom Zbikowski to play safety if and when Reed can't go.
And as far as him getting a new contract, it's really a non-issue, just something to blather about in the dull days before training camp begins. Reed would love a raise, but he knows he can't get one until he is fully healthy and playing like the Ed Reed everyone knows. And like everyone else, he isn't sure when that Ed Reed will reappear. As usual with him, it's a mystery.
John Eisenberg worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.