NEW ORLEANS — Less than a week ago, we wondered if Super Bowl XLVII would be the final game for both defensive institutions of the Baltimore Ravens, but safety Ed Reed was sending out mixed signals as only he could on his first night in New Orleans.
Returning to play in his first Super Bowl in his home state of Louisiana, Reed not only blurred the status of his own playing future but also hinted that retiring linebacker Ray Lewis may decide to continue playing after all. It was the second time Reed has implied that Lewis might not be done, but this offering didn’t seem to be accompanied with quite the same level of humor as the first time he suggested the possibility a few weeks ago.
“Yeah, it is Ray’s last ride, but I wouldn’t be so certain about that,” said Reed as he smiled. “There isn’t any telling — Ray might make a comeback. He might play 10 games next year.”
Of course, Reed has earned the reputation of talking from both sides of his mouth regarding his own future over the last few offseasons, so anything the 34-year-old safety says should be taken with a grain of salt. The 11th-year defensive back said last week he intended to play next season.
Asked about Reed’s doubt regarding his decision to retire, Lewis reiterated his plan to walk away from the field after 17 seasons in Baltimore.
“Listen, it’s real with me when I say I’m done,” Lewis said. “Coming back is a totally different thought process. I just think I’d rub a lot of people wrong and most important, probably my kids that I would rub wrong and I don’t want to take them through that anymore.”
In addition to offering a shred of doubt about the 37-year-old linebacker’s status beyond this season, Reed didn’t speak with as much conviction over his own future when asked once again if he intended to continue playing after Sunday’s game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Reed will be a free agent after the season, and a return to the Ravens appears to be in doubt as general manager Ozzie Newsome will focus his efforts to sign quarterback Joe Flacco to a long-term agreement to clear precious salary-cap room to try to keep other younger defensive players such as linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe as well as cornerback Cary Williams.
The 2002 first-round pick didn’t seem nearly as interested in reiterating his plans to play next season when asked whether Sunday might be his final game.
“That question was asked a couple days back, just about this being my last ride,” Reed said. “I’m not focusing on that right now, so that question is pointless to answer, really. I’m not even thinking about that.”
Even if Reed is already wavering from the declaration offered in Owings Mills last week, Monday’s comments likely won’t be the end of the story as the safety has discussed his physical challenges at great length and how they’ve played a major role in his tendency to at least consider retirement over the last couple seasons.
However, his comments once again suggesting Lewis might not be finished playing football after Sunday’s Super Bowl were an interesting twist in the presumed retirement story of one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. It very likely amounts to nothing more than Reed having some fun with the media, but it still provides some extra intrigue for the weekend.
“Ray told me months ago this probably was it,” Reed said. “I had that focus of coming in that we could hopefully get here and here we are. It just so happened that Ray made that announcement, so the team knew also. Of course, we want to send him off the right way. I’m not about to say this is my last game and everybody join in with that. [But] if that’s what it’s going to take to get the guys pumped though, I will say it.”
You never know what exactly to make from the enigmatic safety’s comments, but there’s rarely a dull moment — even at the Super Bowl — when he speaks to reporters.
There’s no telling what the future holds for Reed, but Lewis made his thoughts known in what would be the perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career for the free safety.
“For us to get here now, Super Bowl XLVII and to be in his hometown, how much more appropriate can you ask for it to be for him?” Lewis said about his teammate of 11 years. “Our courses are totally different — same mindset, but totally different paths. He’ll make his decision whenever he makes his decision. Like I told him, if he was going to go out, what better way to go out than feeling that confetti as world champions?”