Where Did Things Go Wrong Between the Ravens & Ed Reed?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 2, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens gestures on the field in the second half against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When free safety Ed Reed left the Baltimore Ravens for the Houston Texans this offseason, many fans just sighed and chalked it up to the financial realities of today's National Football League.

However, more reports have now surfaced that indicate that money wasn't only the reason that Reed is now longer with the Ravens, and if those reports are true then yet another unpleasant reality about the NFL has once again reared its head.

According to Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun, the Ravens never really had any intention of bringing Reed back, as according to Preston, head coach John Harbaugh "wanted Reed back as much as he wants a root canal."


That would certainly seem to contradict what Harbaugh said when Reed left. According to Evan Hilbert of CBS Sports, Harbaugh had only good things to say about the 12-year veteran at that time, stating that “Ed has had a major impact on our organization and our community. He is a great player and a great friend. We will always be thankful for what we accomplished together.”

So which is it? Great friend or royal pain in the...tooth?

As is usually the case, this situation contains a bit of both.

Many in the media are theorizing that the falling out between Reed and Harbaugh may have stemmed from an October incident, in which Reed and fellow safety Bernard Pollard openly questioned Harbaugh's treatment of players in practice.

Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported on this "near mutiny" last year, but Pollard took exception, telling KILT-AM that not only was there no "mutiny" but that he was disappointed that Harbaugh never disputed that there was.

"Coach Harbaugh opened up the floor, he asked us our opinion on things that were going good and things that wasn’t going good and things that we needed to change,” Pollard said. “We as humans, we tend to want to know or want to ask people things, but do we really want to know the truth? And so I spoke up, Ed spoke up, and if it was something that Coach Harbaugh didn’t like, we didn’t know that until now."

"Obviously we would have to say as players that somebody took it personal because for them not to come back and say that wasn’t a problem, there was no mutiny or anything else. I’m offended by that because we walked away from that situation thinking, ‘OK, everybody’s on the same page. We’re all good.’ Like I said, I’m just a little offended that the coach never stepped up and said anything.”


Now both Pollard and Reed are playing elsewhere, which raises some eyebrows.

The idea of Reed clashing with coaches shouldn't raise any though. Throughout his career Reed has always been a player who wasn't shy about speaking his mind, a bit of a high-maintenance type.

He's far from alone in that regard, and when you're one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL you can say just about anything you want to just about anyone you want.

The problem is, Reed isn't that player anymore.

According to Pro Football Focus, Reed ranked outside the top 50 safeties in the National Football League in 2012. He hasn't ranked inside the top 10 since 2010.

Simply put, he's 34 years old. Age spares no man, and Reed's no exception. That isn't to say that Reed isn't still capable of being an effective safety, but last year's precipitous drop-off is cause for some concern.

Reed may still be a solid player, but his days as an elite one are more likely than not in the rear-view mirror.

Odds are, however, that you'd have a hard time convincing Reed of that. The skills of great players may erode, but their egos rarely do.

Once again, not surprising. That ego is one of the things that makes great players great. To be that good, you have to believe you're that good.

Add his age and salary demands together, toss in that possible rift between Harbaugh and Reed, and you get the reality of the situation.

The Baltimore Ravens saw a chance to extricate themselves from a worsening situation, at least in their view. They took it, replacing Reed with the much younger Michael Huff.

Time will tell whether the Ravens regret that choice. I'd wager that Harbaugh already regrets Preston's article, if only because Reed all but certainly won't forget it and Houston is a team the Ravens may well have to get through if they're going to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

This happens all the time in the NFL. Whether it's Joe Montana, Jerry Rice or Emmitt Smith, the history of the league is littered with superstars who ended their careers on different teams than the ones that made them famous.

Sometimes the departure is amenable. Sometimes it is not. Ed Reed may be the latest, but he certainly won't be the last.

The fans may not like it, but the cold truth is that in the NFL, nothing is forever.