It seems that every time a Ravens player opens his mouth these days, there’s controversy. It’s fair to say, as we inch ever closer to the start of training camp, and eventually the season, that these guys are as excited as the fans are to get this show on the road. In the meantime, it’s been mildly entertaining, at times puzzling, but altogether refreshing that the players’ excitement is so palpable that they can barely contain themselves when it comes to discussing football. Unfortunately however that seems to have made the way for the quotes and sound bites produced over the last couple of weeks. It’s easy to imagine that camp will be a chippy one this year, as it seems that these guys are simply dying to hit someone, anyone…now.
In this offseason of innuendo, hyperbole and hype however, no one’s comments have drawn as much attention or criticism as those of Ed Reed, and in so doing, Reed has seemingly turned the fans on himself, faster than anyone could have envisioned. It is indeed tough to hear the daily commentary emanating from Reed and not at least raise an eyebrow. How does a player declare himself less than 50% healthy, speculate as to whether or not it would even be prudent to play the upcoming season, and then seemingly in the same breath proclaim himself a top player in the league at his position, capable of playing another decade and deserving of more money with 3 years still remaining on his current contract?
Because of the difficult to understand logic behind most of Reed’s statements, it’s easy to be dismissive of them all, as many have been. A couple of things though are tough to ignore.
First, there’s the Troy Smith issue. As much as fans fail to see the value in keeping Smith around, across the board his teammates seem to love him. Not to the extent that they’ll miss him when he’s gone, more than that. Troy Smith, in some way that we as fans will never likely understand has won over the locker room to the degree that players have felt compelled to speak out on his behalf. Not one teammate, or even two. In his short time here, Smith has had proponents both black and white, on offense and defense, singing his praises and touting his value to the team. Again, I don’t claim to understand his value, or believe that I ever will, but could all of his teammates be that wrong?
The other side of that coin of course is John Harbaugh. Regardless of who likes Smith or how much, it all boils down to whether or not Harbaugh trusts him enough to put the offense in his hands for a prolonged stretch if need be. Even if Ozzie Newsome truly believed Smith to be the second coming of Steve Young, if he can’t convince Harbaugh of the same value, then he’s not worth a spot on the roster, period. What are your alternatives; go to war with the coach who has taken you twice into the postseason in just two seasons at the helm, or fire him?
The other part of Reed’s statements that have some merit, or that speak to a bigger issue at least, is not feeling the love from the organization that a player of his stature seemingly deserves. Although we as fans may have a tough time embracing this, it too makes some sense. Reed, faced with the possibility of a sudden end to his career, is feeling the urgency to get paid that may not have existed a couple of years ago when the terms of his current deal were negotiated. The sad fact that the 3 remaining years on Reed’s deal are the football equivalent of 3 club options in baseball or basketball and that he’ll only see that money if he’s able to provide commensurate value to the team, has likely increased his desire to see one more guaranteed bonus check.
As we point to football as the economic antithesis of baseball, and call it a positive, we should be careful not to forget that unlike the NFL and NBA, Major League Baseball isn’t looking at a likely work stoppage in the next 15 months. Although Reed specifically might not garner much sympathy from the average working stiff, by comparison, NFL players have it the worst of all of the major professional sports. They have the shortest careers, with the greatest likelihood of injury, and are the only ones who don’t get guaranteed money beyond their signing bonuses.
All is fair in love, war and football I suppose, but already sitting on the best deal in sports, and fair haired boy status amongst fans as well, NFL owners are prepared to lock out the players in a fight over more money. They want us to believe that they’re fighting for more games for us the fans, and for HGH testing. But with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, would the league really step out there like that, for us? I should think not.
Football is a cold business. Despite our best efforts to ignore that fact, NFL owners are determined it seems, to slap us in the face with that very reality in the very near future. In the meantime Reed is left to contemplate his own future, one eventually without football. Getting on in years with a laundry list of ailments and an impending lockout that he may not see the other side of, it becomes a little easier to understand why Reed is feeling the urgency to get his ring, and a payday if possible, this year, while the getting is still good even if he’s not doing a great job of expressing it. And it would seem as well, that he’d like to have Troy Smith along for the ride.
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