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Ravens Monitoring Reed


When facing one of the best offenses in the NFL, led by two of the most-feared wideouts and a top-tier quarterback, it would help to have a full starting-defensive backfield.

That's why a lot of eyes in Baltimore are focused squarely on Ed Reed's back - and neck and shoulders.

A nerve impingement in his neck has left Reed's availability in question for Sunday's season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, who boast Pro Bowl receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and quarterback Carson Palmer.

The Bengals averaged 250.8 passing yards per game, which ranked as the league's seventh-best.

And regardless of the opponent, Reed's injury may sideline the safety longer than simply Week 1.

"It's just listening to the doctor and trying to be smart about it as much as you can," said Reed, a four-time Pro Bowler. "If they tell you it's going to be a couple of weeks, then you've got to take a couple weeks.

"That's what they've been telling me right now."

Reed recently ditched his red practice jersey that signified he was not cleared for full contact, but he is still being cautious while learning more about the condition. The Ravens listed him as "limited" in practice Wednesday.

"It's very frustrating because you can't really do anything," Reed explained. "If you get out there, you are really at risk. You've got to do what you've got to do. If I feel like I can get out there and be effective and help the guys, then that's what I'm going to do.

"At the same time, I want to be smart and try to strengthen it as much as possible before I do go out there."

Head coach John Harbaugh would not put a hard schedule on Reed's return to live hitting.

"I wouldn't even speculate on it," Harbaugh noted. "As Ed said, it is day-to-day. It's just that it's got to be worked out on its own time frame."

According to Reed, the impingement runs from his neck to both shoulders, giving him pain and soreness when aggravated.

"[It's] more or less discomfort, to describe it," he said. "It's kind of like if you were turning your neck and someone was kind of holding you back from going all the way. In your shoulder, you kind of feel a little tug."

The Ravens are ready to start Jim Leonhard in Reed's place.

Leonhard, a free-agent signee this offseason from the Buffalo Bills, has looked impressive with the first-unit in four preseason starts. Leonhard finished third on the team with 18 preseason tackles, posting one interception and four passes defensed.

In addition to Leonhard, the Ravens have draft picks Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura to fill any gaps at safety.

"They are more than capable of doing the job, of making sure that we are a successful defense at any point of the season," Reed stated. "Like we always tell them, everybody is a starter, so prepare accordingly."

One of the bigger challenges of a defensive backfield without Reed is communication.

A renowned student of the game and film fanatic, Reed takes the lead in calling coverages to fellow safety Dawan Landry and cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

"Ed is a field general out there," Landry said. "He is like an extra coach, but whoever else steps in there has played well. I think we'll be all right. We just have to talk a little more to make sure we're all together.

"That is going to fall on the back end, so we have to make sure nothing gets over our head."

But considering all four starters are entering their third season together – after Landry was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft – McAlister doesn't think there is much of a drop-off with the chatter in the secondary.

"All offseason, guys have done a great job of picking up on the signals and knowing the defense," McAlister. "The communication is sound. You're going to miss a guy like Ed Reed, but everybody is still on the same page."

Whenever Reed does come back, the former first-round draft pick insists he will keep playing his typical playmaking style of football.

"I just need to be smart about making tackles," Reed said. "But I'm not a player that thinks of things like injuries and getting hurt, because that takes you out of your game."

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