He was an 18-year-old on a small college campus in Coral Gables, Fla. – wide-eyed, soft-spoken, but confident, and on this particular morning, deflecting clichéd questions from a doughy homer on a local sports show.
Ed, what makes you stand out? What sets you apart? What do you bring to this team?
Ed, what makes you different?
“Instincts.” We laughed. Right, instincts.
A national title and four All-Pro teams later, Edward Reed still follows his primal know, even when it says something he’s not ready to hear.
Ed, are you thinking about your future? Ed, is this the end? Ed, have you had enough?
“I’ve been thinking about it. It kind of hit me on the sideline. It hit me now because I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to have going forward. It’ll be a long offseason just thinking about. It hurts just thinking about it. It’s 50-50,” the Ravens safety told reporters after Saturday’s loss to the Colts.
Of course, whenever Reed decides to hang up the Twenty, the numbers will only speak prologue, perhaps etch a footnote on a bronzed-plaque somewhere in Ohio.
Forty-six career interceptions, 12 touchdowns, seven picks in seven career playoff games, too many what-was-he-thinkings to count.
The real story is carved into his broken body – into his creaky neck, into his splintered shoulder, into his old man’s beard.
Reed is only 31. He’s three year’s younger than teammate Ray Lewis, nine years the junior of ageless Brett Favre.
But while Lewis and Favre defy time and defy logic and defy physics, the gridiron gods aren’t as kind to 5-foot 11-inch, 195-pound heat-seeking free safeties.
Reed is a game-changing savant, for the good (turnovers) and the bad (turnovers). He is a collision waiting to happen.
Ed, but why now? Ed, you’re still the best. Ed, your team needs you. Ed. Ed. Ed.
“There were no excuses coming into this season about injuries…You fight through. You lose like this, it’s hard to lay it down. At the end of the day, you have to think about family. I have a family now. We shall see.”
Ravens receiver Derrick Mason and Redskins running back Clinton Portis are floating the same excuses. Gotta do for it the kids. Gotta think about getting out of bed, the front stairs, reaching for the Sunday paper.
But, Derrick, you guys can still play. Clinton, be a man. What do you mean, it’s just football?
No. They’ve heard the slurred whispers. They know about Earl Campbell and swiss-cheese brains. They see Robert Smith on TV and think, I want to be just like him one day.
No. It is just football.
As evidenced by Saturday night, the reckless little devil on Ed Reed’s pads still has a direct line to his ear and to his heart, only now that heedless hunch is deferring to his gut.
Follow your instincts, Ed. Ed, stop before it’s too late.