Indianapolis, IN The Baltimore Ravens will begin their offseason Sunday following a dreadful 20-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night at LucasOil Stadium in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
While the offseason will be filled with question marks due to a season that started with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with 8 losses, the Ravens certainly had to be hoping that they would have some time to re-focus before facing some major decisions.
Unfortunately, a surprising level of honesty from a potential Hall of Fame player has started the offseason with a rocket pace.
Meeting with media members following the Ravens’ loss, Ed Reed was asked if he thought about his own future in the NFL. He said he had, then opened up about the issues that have plagued him during this most recent years of his career.
“It kinda hit me on the sidelines. It hit me now, because I don’t know how much I’m gonna be able to have going forward. It’s gonna be a long offseason. It hurts just thinking about it.”
Ed continued to open up about the decision. When asked if he was leaning one way or another, he said it was “fifty-fifty”, adding “I’ve got great doctors that I deal with. We’ll see how they re-evaluate things, we’ll see how it goes in the next couple days.”
Ed was next asked if his decision was going to be based solely on his well documented physical problems (including chronic neck/shoulder issues, combined with a serious groin problem he has been battling this season), and he started laughing.
“No. At the end of the day, it’s my decision to play with injuries going forward in my career. I take good advice from my doctors. It’s been great up to this point, I wanted to battle through this year-even with all of the injuries I had last year and the injuries I had this year. It was no excuses coming into this season about injuries. That’s why I was never frustrated when I hurt my groin, because you know injuries come-especially at this point in my career.”
He added “you lose like this, it’s hard to lay it down. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to think about family. I’ve got a family now.
Coming into this season, and as the season continued to play out, it was well documented that Ed Reed was likely going to have his career cut short due to his nagging injuries. In conversations with Drew Forrester during “The Comcast Morning Show” and on all of my appearances on AM1570 WNST I have often commented that there was a real likelihood that Ed Reed’s career might be coming to a close much sooner than any of us wanted to admit. In fact, we have openly speculated about whether or not this might be Ed’s final season with the Ravens on more than one occasion.
But never before had we heard Ed talk about the possibility of retirement himself.
It is easy to say that Ed Reed is no longer playing at the level he played dating back to 2004-when he won his only NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Clearly Ed’s injuries have hurt him, but it was more apparent this season that Ed’s decisions to try to make plays defensively had caused holes in the Ravens defense on a number of important plays. Ed’s ability to tackle has been hurt by his physical limits, and his desire to lateral the football has cost this team in big situations.
However, Ed Reed is still a game-changing type of football player. Even in the Ravens’ season ending loss, he was able to get his hands on the ball twice, even if neither play resulted in the Ravens getting possession of the ball (Pierre Garcon forced a fumble on one, a Corey Ivy pass interference negated the other). A current NFL assistant coach once told me that Ed was a player that forced offenses to totally alter how they played the game. That’s much more rare than you realize, as NFL teams tend to gameplan around their own players-not opposing players.
A Ravens defense without Ed Reed might still be a very good defense. They’ll bring back the always solid Ray Lewis, Domonique Foxworth is relatively young and improved as the season continued, Haloti Ngata has become a stallwart on the defensive line, and even Lardarius Webb appeared to have solidified himself as a legitimate NFL cornerback.
But a Ravens defense without Ed Reed would not be as imposing to opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. A Ravens defense without Ed Reed would not allow other players the opportunity to make plays due to the space Ed Reed was capable of closing on.
A Ravens defense without Ed Reed would just not be as good.
Ed Reed isn’t the only issue the Ravens face going into the offseason. Their entire crop of wide receivers will see their contracts expire, and there are questions as to whether or not any of them will be back or even SHOULD be back. Mark Clayton told me after the game he isn’t “worried” about whether or not he will return, but he probably should be. Derrick Mason, Kelley Washington and Demetrius Williams have similar uncertainty in their future.
Willis McGahee is a player with a large price tag whose role was diminished during the season. Jared Gaither and Jarret Johnson are each approaching big contracts, and Ozzie Newsome will be forced to decide whether or not the Ravens can or should be the team to give them those deals. Haloti Ngata is approaching an even bigger contract than that.
It’s going to be a long offseason-and a turbulent one given the likelihood of an uncapped year in the NFL, and rules that would prohibit the Ravens from signing a free agent unless one of their own signed elsewhere.
But before they can even get to those things, they’ll be awaiting word from their Pro Bowl safety.
Ed said the “emotions” of Saturday night’s loss made him want to take some time before making a decision, but wrapped up his conversation by stating “you’ll know soon.”
No one wants to know sooner than Ozzie Newsome, as this will be the first in a series of events that will shape the future of this team.
-Hear from John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Jarret Johnson, Ray Rice, Mark Clayton, Ed Reed and Jared Gaither following the loss to the Colts NOW in the Audio Vault at WNST.net. Derrick Mason, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs were unavailable for comment.
-Matt Stover made an appearance as players were leaving the locker room, he wished to offer good thoughts to his former teammates. Due to his sensitivity about his departure from Baltimore, he declined to talk to reporters.
-The Ravens reported no players were forced to leave the game due to injury.