(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In typical fashion, former Ravens safety Ed Reed initially labeled his return to Baltimore as “another away game” as a member of the Houston Texans, but we all knew better.
Spending more time reminiscing about his 11 years with the organization that drafted him with the 24th overall pick of the 2002 draft, the 35-year-old’s true feelings shined through to no one’s surprise. It’s impossible not to be a little sentimental as Reed prepares to potentially play in his first game with another NFL franchise after missing the start of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.
“Baltimore is family. I miss walking into ‘The Bank’ on Sunday,” Reed said in a conference call with the local media. “I have a lot of memories; I cherish that and always will be a Raven. That’s where I was raised in the NFL. I did a lot of growing; we did a lot of special things. That’s something that could never be taken away.”
The reactions from former teammates have been awkward but respectful this week as the thought of Reed wearing enemy colors at M&T Bank Stadium seems foreign. Some teammates have even joked that they hope Reed won’t be ready to return to action as he acknowledges being less than 100 percent after missing the entire preseason and the Texans’ first two regular-season games.
Even Reed doesn’t know exactly what to expect from the hometown fans, joking that it will depend on how the morning tailgating goes prior to Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.
“It’s going to be weird with him being here such a long time,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “It’s going to be weird seeing him in a different uniform. He moved on, and we moved on, and hopefully he cannot play so we don’t have to play against him.”
While Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has spoken positively about Reed’s status, the veteran defensive back was noncommittal about playing Sunday after practicing on a limited basis each of the last two days. It’s expected that Reed would only play on a part-time basis against the Ravens in his first game action since Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.
It’s anyone’s guess what Reed will have to offer this season as he enters his 12th season and is coming off his second major hip surgery in the last four years.
“I’m not confident about [anything] but going day to day the way I’ve been,” Reed said. “There’s no confidence about it if I haven’t played. You can’t be confident if you haven’t been on the field.”
Even with Reed’s physical skills in decline, the Ravens are fully aware of his mental prowess in the secondary and know he is still able to take advantage of mistakes like he did when picking off an overthrown pass by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl. A ferocious Texans pass rush makes Reed’s stalking in the secondary even more dangerous for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Facing the man who challenged him on a daily basis in practices for years, Flacco understands how significant Reed’s return is for both Baltimore fans and his organization, regardless of what kind of player Reed will be in 2013.
“If he was in his fifth year, it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he wouldn’t have been here for that long,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who teamed with Reed for five seasons. “But the fact that all the fans know him as a Baltimore Raven, and the fact that I was a fan of his at one point [before being his teammate], yeah, it probably makes it a little bit different.”
Reed’s decision to depart for Houston on a three-year, $15 milllion wasn’t the storybook ending many had hoped for after he finally raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, but his return to Baltimore will still be memorable as fans will inevitably recognize one of the greatest players in franchise history.
The Ravens just hope Reed doesn’t make them pay with his play on the field.
“It’s like playing against your brothers again while I’m out there coaching,” said Reed, who insisted he holds no hard feelings over the way his exit from the Ravens played out. “I’ve been having this feeling for a long time. It’s different being here and coming to see my guys, who I’ve been fighting with for a long time.”
Lewis to speak or not to speak
Only adding to the emotion of Reed’s return to Baltimore will be the Ring of Honor induction of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who ended his remarkable 17-year career in February.
His presence on Sunday has sparked questions over whether Lewis will address the team prior to kickoff. Truthfully, it’s an awkward proposition for an organization that spent the offseason trying to move on from the era in which Lewis and Reed were the biggest faces of the franchise.
“I think we’ll leave that up to Ray, but I think he should just enjoy his moment,” Suggs said. “It’s his day. He’s going in [to the Ring of Honor], and if he feels he needs to say something to the team, he can say something. If anybody has the right of way, it’s him. If he just wants to enjoy it, take it in and be a fan of football, that’s fine, too.”
It would be nearly impossible for the Ravens to deny Lewis the opportunity to speak to his former teammates if he asks, but one wonders if it would be counterproductive to the leadership-by-committee approach that continues to be a work in progress in the early stages of the season.
Numerous members of the organization have made it clear throughout the offseason and summer that it’s a new era of Ravens football, so Lewis’ presence beyond the details of the halftime celebration could be considered a potential distraction.
“I don’t have a philosophical position on that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Either way would be fine. If it happened and it felt right, it would be great. And if it didn’t happen because it didn’t make sense, that’d be fine, too.”
Watch out for Watt