Baltimore Ravens Ed Reed's Comments Calculated, Correct and Right on Time

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 19, 2012

By now, you have no doubt heard what future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed said about his Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

In case you were under a rock today, and missed what the Ravens 10-year All-Pro player said, here is what Reed said on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Monday. 

According to published reports, he said, “I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by (Houston's) defense...[The Texans] had a lot of guys in the box on him and they were giving [the pass] to him." 

Big Ed was far from finished.

I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense. I don't know how much of [that was] the play calling … but it just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past … It was just kind of like they (coaches) were telling him to do—throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys.

He can't play like [he did against the Texans]. One specific play that sticks out to me was when Ray Rice came out and got pushed out of the backfield and (Flacco) still threw him the ball and he had Torrey Smith on the outside. I can see that sitting on the sideline or sitting in the stands. You don't know what someone else is seeing.

For good measure, Reed also backed the bus up on the offensive line. 

The offensive line gotta block better...You know, they gotta communicate better, gotta pick up blocks (and) Joe’s gotta get the ball out of his hand.

Many analysts have weighed in on Reed's timing. The general rule of thumb when making such comments is—you don't.

Coaches like to cut down on distractions. But this is a far different world than the one that existed when many coaches played. 

For better or worse, those days are long gone. Distractions are relevant in terms of what they mean, and why they are occurring. With social media at its height, professional athletes can't run a yellow light without someone posting it on Twitter, Facebook or Google.

Plus, Flacco opened himself up to this. While many will say it shouldn't come from a teammate, I say who better than a teammate? Especially one like Ed Reed.


As Smart as Any in the Game

If degrees were given out to determine the intelligence of defensive football players, Ed Reed would be a Rhodes Scholar. He's as smart as any football player in the history of the game. Reed's intelligence as a football player is a major reason why he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio exactly five years after he retires.

Has Ed Reed made irrational, and frustrating comments throughout his career? He sure has. But this is not one of those instances.

The last time he did was following the Ravens Divisional playoff loss to the Colts two years ago—a game in which Reed picked Peyton Manning not once, but twice.

The first pick was fumbled by Reed on his run back as he looked to lateral the ball. The second was erased by a pass interference penalty on teammate Corey Ivy.

The Ravens offense, led by then second year quarterback Joe Flacco, could muster just one field goal. Manning was held relatively in check with 246 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco, as he has been in the postseason, was less than stellar, passing for 189-yards and throwing two interceptions.

Immediately following the game, Reed was interviewed and appeared frustrated to the point of quitting.

I’ve been thinking about it (retirement), and it kind of hit me on the sidelines...It’s going to be a long offseason. It hurts. I am just thinking about it...I’m 50-50. I am going to re-evaluate things and see how it goes in the next couple of days.

Reed, who was 31 at the time, had an injury-filled 2009 season, and missed four December games because of a variety of injuries, including problems with his neck, hip and groin.

The now eight-time Pro-Bowler, and five-time first team All-Pro returned the following season, but missed the first six games on the physically unable to perform list. 

Despite playing with a nerve impingement that affected his neck and shoulder, Reed still managed to record a league-high eight interceptions in just 10 games.

Last season, Reed watched again as the Ravens were dealt a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.

This time his defense helped stake the Ravens offense to a 14-point halftime lead in Pittsburgh. By the end of the game, Reed could only watch as the Steelers moved on—eventually to the Super Bowl after beating the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game the following week.

Reed was again left feeling frustrated by the poor play of his team's offense and by his quarterback. Not to mention the team that Reed admitted to “disliking very much,” had just eliminated the Ravens for the second time in three years—despite great efforts by the Baltimore’s defense in both.

Flacco threw for just 125-yards, tossed one TD and had one very costly interception. Running back Ray Rice also failed to show up, and his fumble, along with Flacco's pick, led to 14 game-tying points for the Steelers.


Not the Best Season

Reed has not had his best season this year. He recorded just three interceptions—matching a career low in 2009—but has played injured for most of the season. Reed could be seen warming up prior to games wearing a shoulder harness, as the nerve impingement that affects his neck and shoulder appears to be getting worse.

If you watched last Sunday—and are human—you had to cringe when Reed fell hard on his shoulder, then winced in pain. I thought it was a miracle he returned to play in the game, much less pick off a pass to help seal the Texans' fate very late in the fourth quarter.

Reed's eighth career postseason INT on Sunday, puts him in very elite company. He is just one pick away from tying Ronnie Lott, Bill Simpson and Charlie Waters for most QB thefts in postseason history.

Reed is reckless when he plays at times, especially when leaping for balls. He almost broke his ankle helping to break up a pass that sent the Texans back to Houston. Following the play, Reed was carried off the field. He will play Sunday for a right to participate in the Super Bowl.

This could be his last shot. Watching Reed grimace in pain just about every Sunday puts even more of a sense of urgency into the situation for No. 20.

Reed wholeheartedly deserves to be showcased in the Super Bowl. While many great athletes have retired without winning a championship, or even playing for one, it would be one of those life-isn’t-fair moments at best if he doesn’t get to Indianapolis.

Reed had two days to think about what he was going to say about his quarterback. He's watched Terrell Suggs defend his QB on ESPN's First Take for two months now, and again yesterday.

He watched T-Sizzle tell everyone that Flacco was his boy, and is the only QB in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons.

Reed wasn’t buying it, and instead decided to become the anti-Suggs on radio. With that said, Reed plotted his course and took action.


It Needed to be Said

I’m sure Reed has probably had the private conversations with his QB in the past that many are saying he should have had this time.

While I cannot speak for big Ed, it sounds like one of those things that needed to be said despite everyone already knowing it. It’s kind of like telling your teenagers not to drink when they're underage.

You know they know, but feel a whole lot better when you say it.

Reed may have even been at a loss for how to motivate his quarterback. Reed is not Ray Lewis, or Terrell Suggs. He is not the most quoted Raven, nor is he controversial with his comments. Reed knows this, and so do his teammates.

That makes what Reed says all the more interesting. When he does say something that raises eyebrows, it's calculated. 

Reed watched and knows that Flacco’s performance on Sunday, although mistake free, was far from what will be needed this week to beat the Patriots.

No matter how bad the Patriots secondary is, they will not be covering empty patches of grass, which Flacco threw to on too many occasions this past Sunday.

Reed also knows—and I can’t say this enough—that this is probably his last shot. It’s worth repeating because it is obvious that it is the motivation for the comments.

Reed wants to win, or at least have a chance to play in the Super Bowl—he deserves it. He wants to win so badly that he's playing with an injury that could affect the way he functions as a normal human being in life, much less on the football field.

Reed lets it all hang out, but he won't make excuses. He was probably tired of it all when Flacco whined last week about the lack of respect he gets as QB of the Ravens.

In fact, Reed was downright defiant last week when asked questions about his drop in interceptions this season.

"They’re not throwing my way. What do you want me to do?" Reed said after last Thursday’s practice prior to the Texans game. "They’re not throwing my way. I can remember two interceptions that really touched my hands, and I didn’t make the play, but I’m not getting action. So this question is for the other teams and the other quarterbacks.” 

Earlier that week, Reed told ESPN’s AFC North blog that he has been playing the last few weeks with an injured shoulder that has contributed to him missing a few tackles.

The most notable was a touchdown run by the Bengals Bernard Scott during the final game of the year. Reed refused to make excuses.

Football...It’s a physical sport. You’re going to have bumps and bruises, but I have yet to miss a game this year. So be it.

Reed did what he had to do on Tuesday to fire his quarterback up. For Flacco, Its one thing to feel disrespected by the media, but it is a whole other issue to feel as though you’re letting your teammates down—and it is obvious that Flacco has let Reed down with his play in the postseason.

The 2004 defensive player of the year was as polite as he could be with his comments, but he made his point. Flacco, who admitted that he was initially “caught off guard” by Reed’s comments, still looked uncomfortable when answering reporters about the issue on Wednesday.

I talked to Ed about it. [The comments were] a little funny to me. I was a little caught off guard, but it is what it is. We talked about it. It’s not really that big of a deal.

Yes, Joe, it is a big deal. It is a Hall of Fame player telling you that you need to step up your game. He did it this way because you don’t seem to understand the magnitude of what is at stake for him, Ray Lewis, and the rest of your team.

Sure, Flacco knows what will happen if Baltimore wins, but does a fourth-year player, who’s not a Hall of Fame type or even a Pro-Bowl player, understand the heart of an Ed Reed or Ray Lewis?


His Last Recourse to Make His Point

This was Reed’s last recourse to make his point to the franchise quarterback, and he did what he felt he had to do. Who are we to question a player of Reed’s magnitude and accomplishments?

His timing was perfect. Wednesday is media day, and Reed knew that his teammates would have his back. As he calculated, they did. Several Ravens spoke in support of Flacco, who will attempt to win his fifth road playoff in four years on Sunday. 

The other future Hall of Fame member of the defense, Super Bowl XXXV MVP Ray Lewis, has won a Super Bowl, and may not feel the same sense of urgency, He said, “It's not an issue.”

The only issue we have as a team is going up and trying to get a win in Foxborough. Anything else anyone wants to bring up is irrelevant. Every person in our locker room is thinking the same way...I think I’m more shocked just how people can speak about somebody who is just a flat-out winner. There’s no one side to anything. There’s no one player that makes one team great. It takes a team effort. And what Joe has come in and done for us, I told people from day one when I first saw that kid throw a football, I said that kid is special.

Head coach John Harbaugh said, "“I understand where Ed’s heart’s at, and all our guys when they say things.”

Harbaugh, who took over as head coach four years ago today, continued to extinguish the small flames associated with the comments.

We’re together all the time. We know each other; we understand where each other are coming from. I’m sure there are some things he would have liked to have said a little better. If you look at the whole context and hear the tone of his voice, I think the message he was trying to communicate was a good message. But obviously, things could have been…the way you read them and stuff like that, I’m sure he’s not too happy about that.

That’s a nice spin, but Reed has watched Flacco get coddled an unchallenged—much like the recently criticized Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

As I said, Reed is an intelligent man on and off the field. He knew that by Sunday, comments made on Tuesday would be left for Jim Nantz and Phil Sims to debate while calling the game for CBS.

If you think that Reed thought his comments were a mistake, or took them back, then think again. Today, Reed sat with ESPN's Chris Berman, and added this finishing touch.

“There’s always a method to the madness," Reed told ESPN. He said he didn't think his teammates would "take anything out of context that I said." "If they do, it's got to be motivation to prove me wrong."

It is hard to put yourself into the cleats of an NFL superstar. Ask yourself this question, Ravens fans: Do you trust Joe Flacco?

Do you really like the team's chances if the Patriots horrendous defense can find a way to stop Ray Rice?

Reed is motivating Flacco because he knows that it is likely that if the Ravens don't score at least 24 or more points on Sunday, than Reed's career will end without the coveted ring he deserves.

So, when a quiet leader and future legend speaks like he did, it was definitely calculated.

Reed played his last card, and more than likely will be playing in his last game if the Ravens lose Sunday. Considering Flacco's performance during the past in the postseason (6 TD's, 7 INT's), Reed's comments were definitely correct.

When you consider that they were delivered on a Tuesday, they were also right on time.


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