The last time Ravens fans heard from Ed Reed in M&T Bank Stadium, they were welcomed with a less-than-stellar rendition of the popular Eddie Money song, “Two Tickets to Paradise” after the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
The future Hall of Famer did indeed return to Baltimore Sunday for Lardarius Webb’s 5th annual Celebrity Softball Tournament, which was the first time the event took place at M&T Bank Stadium.
And while there showing off his softball skills, Reed sent a message to Ravens fans and the rest of the NFL that he’s still looking for and is ready for a ticket to ride with an NFL team.
“I’m definitely preparing to play,” Reed told reporters during the game. “If I wasn’t, you would have heard something by now…I learned a lot about the process last year, and I know my worth.”
Reed, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and a 9-time Pro Bowler, played 11 seasons in Baltimore before signing a 3-year, 15 million dollar deal with the Houston Texans in March 2013.
However, Reed lasted just seven games in Houston before being waived. He ultimately reunited with former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan in New York, where he played seven games for the Jets (five starts) finishing with 22 tackles and three interceptions.
Battling hip problems to start the year, Reed clearly wasn’t the Defensive Player of the Year-caliber safety he was in his earlier years in Baltimore and many signaled that decline as the end of his dozen years in the NFL.
But don’t tell that to Ed Reed.
“I know I can still play,” he said. “It’s a matter of a right fit.”
And while the Ravens returned this week for voluntary OTAs in Owings Mills, Reed has been getting ready for an NFL call by training between Georgia and Louisiana.
And with Reed waiting for that call, he knows what he wants and how to approach the season. He said he learned a lot about his desire to play football this year from his preparation going into the 2013 year-his first outside Baltimore.
“I’m not going to anybody’s training camp, ” Reed said. “I sat and watched the league last year from a different perspective, and I learned a lot, and I saw they had teams that needed safeties in the latter part of the year.”
Reed didn’t make his Texans debut till Week 3 last season-a 30-9 loss in his return to Baltimore. During training camp with Houston, he missed workouts on the active PUP-list, and he said he needed that rest to prepare for the season.
And for those who are concerned about that level of determination from the safety, Reed said he’s not concerned with how people think about him.
“Right now, I’m just about taking care of me and getting myself back…I know you guys may question it, but I’m not worried about that. It’s about how I feel.”
The thought of a banged-up, 35-year old safety who could only be a part-time player who’s best days are behind him might not be the biggest draw for an NFL team.
However, Reed, who looked to be enjoying himself Sunday and said it was a pleasure to be back in Baltimore, is content though if this is the end of his NFL dream.
“I’m not worried about the end. I’m not under contract. I’m already at the finish line. I don’t need to sign with anybody.”
“I don’t have to put in any papers. I don’t have to sign anybody’s contract. I don’t have to go to any organization. Ed Reed and Barry Sanders…they did it their own way.”
Those following the game would imagine that if that were to happen, he would follow other elite players of his level to the coaching ranks in an effort to stay apart the game he loved for so many years.
Reed said he would be open to it and that he got a taste of it in 2013 with the Ravens, Texans and Jets.
“Being around Coach Harbaugh, being around Coach Billick, having so many defensive coordinators-I had a different perspective when I left and I definitely learned a lot…I always say I did more coaching when I was in New York because they have a bunch of young guys up there and those guys kind of gravitated to me.”
He’s just hoping that an NFL GM or Coach will gravitate to his football knowledge if it doesn’t equate to continuing his playing career-hopefully in a place he’s all too familiar with in Baltimore.
“I think I can help pretty much any organization if I’m a position coach, a consultant or whatever…I could see me working in the organization here. I could see me working for Ozzie, those guys and Mr. Bisciotti because I put so much into it, I know how they work, and they taught me so much.”
If anything, you can count on Ed Reed making one more trip to M&T Bank Stadium for his guaranteed induction into the stadium’s Ring of Honor and he knows what kind of reaction he’ll get upon that return.
“It definitely brings back memories,” Reed said. “Anytime I come into Baltimore, it brings back memories.”
“It’s always great to see Ed Reed,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “He’s like a big brother and anytime you’re around him, it’s a good time.”
‘It’s great to see Baltimore still loves him.”
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