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Reed Stands Out


It's never hard to miss Ed Reed on the field.

As one of the best safeties in the league, his superior skills make him jump off the film from any game.

But lately, Reed has been blending in - with the quarterbacks.

Due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of the first three weeks of training camp, Reed has been wearing a bright red No. 20 jersey, the same color Baltimore's signal-callers have donned.

While it is supposed to deter players wearing the different shade from any and all contact during practice, Reed contends that hasn't happened for him.

Of course, to the hard-hitting ballhawk, such contact isn't necessarily a bad thing as he works to get back into football shape.

"I played quarterback in high school," Reed said after Monday's morning practice, recalling his days marshaling the Destrehan (La.) High School squad. "So if they need me to go over there with those guys I can.

"But [the jerseys are] just something to help the guys understand not to have any contact. And that hasn't worked at all. I still have been getting bumped, still been hitting the ground, running through guys, which is a good thing, because you really get a feel of whether you can get hit or not. It's usually a good feeling."

According to Reed, the left shoulder ailment is the product of making most of his tackles on his left side and could require surgery when his playing days are over.

Fortunately for the Ravens, that probably won't be for a long time.

In fact, head coach John Harbaugh thinks that he'll have his All-Pro safety on the back end when the Ravens kick off their season against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I'm not doubtful of that at all, based on what we've been told with the doctors," Harbaugh said.

Reed is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl campaign, one that saw him lead the team with seven interceptions in addition to 45 tackles and 13 passes defensed. In case his importance to the club wasn't stated plain enough, Reed also took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown in the 2007 opener Bengals when former return specialist B.J. Sams was knocked out of the game.

Such playmaking ability is a testament to how much the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year can influence game-planning for opposing coaches.

"Having coached a secondary, you have a good idea of the picture you look for back there," said Harbaugh, who headed the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary last season. "Ed is good enough to change the picture just a little bit.

"In other words, he doesn't have to be quite as deep or quite as wide or quite as tight as another guy would and still be in position to make the play. You see why he's made so many plays over the years, kind of by baiting quarterbacks a little bit. He's got a real knack for that."

Reed thinks he's only getting better. One month before his 30th birthday, he'll be the first to admit that he feels his age more so than when he was selected 24th overall by the Ravens in the 2002 draft.

But, the experience Reed's gained entering his seventh season outweighs what little speed he may have lost - if any.

"I think the experience is there," Reed admitted. "I think as we get older the quickness and all that kind of slows down. I think I'm a lot better than I was earlier in my career mentally, but the quickness and everything is still up to par."

Reed keeps himself sharp with a strict film-study regimen. He is relentless when it comes to studying his opponent, noting tendencies of certain players - whether that's offensive linemen, wideouts, quarterbacks or running backs - for the smallest of competitive advantages.

It is a skill Reed said began in high school, but was really reinforced at "The U" under then-defensive coordinator Randy Shannon and then-secondary coach Chuck Pagano, who is currently the Ravens' secondary coach.

Reed took that insatiable appetite for knowledge to the NFL, where it's obviously paid great dividends.

"This is a full-time job, so if you want to be great, if you want to be good at it, even as you get older in your career, the film study is what separates you from the guys who don't do that stuff," Reed explained.

Now, the Ravens are looking for Reed to help tutor some new blood in the defensive backfield. Baltimore brought in veterans Fabian Washington and Frank Walker at cornerback, while spending two draft picks on safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura.

The Ravens also signed rugged Jim Leonhard, a free agent safety from the Buffalo Bills that has impressed lately.

"I think since I've been here, this has probably been the best secondary we've had, just talent-wise," Reed said. "Fabian and Frank are great additions. They bring two different games. Frank is going to talk with you and bump you and get at you, and Fabian is not going to let you get past him.

"I love those [rookies] - they're playmakers," he continued about Zbikowski and Nakamura. "We've got playmakers. We've got guys who are just instinctive about football, know the game and play the game. That's what you like."

If the young talents decide to take a page from Reed's classroom work, the entire unit could develop into one of the best in the league.

All Reed needs to do to fully display what he can do on the gridiron is lose that red jersey.

Then he might assimilate better with the rest of the team.

Then again, he might not.

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