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We all know the highlights like the plays took place last Sunday. Some of us can internally replay them with rabid clarity.
We remember where we sat and who was with us- in a dorm room while at university, or some apartment, or as witness in the stadium, home comfortable on the couch, or some pub somewhere on the east coast or west.
And who we called, whose voice we had to hear and belt our excitement through the phone like kids on Christmas, asking the question we already knew the answer to, “Did you see what Ed just did?!?”
There’s the multiple 100-plus-yard returns, the two longest interception bring backs in NFL history. First was 106 against the Browns in prime time, a pick he grabbed off his shoes and was gone up the sidelines before anyone on offense knew what happened, allowing the greatest of all time to spend the last third of the field at half speed literally flapping his wings like an actual Raven.
Then came 108 against the Eagles in Baltimore. A poor Kolb decision led to a speeding Reed again flying down the sideline, with a trying Brian Westbrook futilely giving chase and one final inside ‘you can’t stop me’ cut of Brent Celek for six points a football field later.
He would’ve even had a third off a halfback pass he picked off in the end zone against the Jets had it not been for a highly questionable block in the back penalty called toward the end of the return. Anyone honestly think that last defender had a chance?!? Ed coulda tap danced on that dude’s coffin for a touchdown.
Against Miami in the playoffs, Reed corralled a bomb over his shoulder down the left sideline that Willie Mays would have had trouble with, then circled to the other side of the field in a wide arc, setting up a gang of blockers heading back the other way, highlighted by Haloti Ngata’s near decapitation of Ted Ginn Jr., and culminating with number 20’s eventual hurdle into the end zone on the same side of the field where he caught the ball. The man drew an S on an NFL field in the postseason.
His second pick that day may have even been more impressive when he flashed through the screen like lighting to grab an underneath short throw over the middle, a place he had no business being. He might have gone to the house there too but lost his footing.
He ripped the ball from Mark Brunell’s left arm in D.C. on a blitz, searched the sky, then located it behind him heading toward the sideline, grabbed the ball off a bounce, and tight-roped into the end zone seemingly all in one motion. He stripped Clinton Portis in Baltimore, recovered it, and backed his way in for six more.
He’s blocked punts for points, returned punts for points, returned picks for points, and fumbles too. Throughout his career he’s scored in every way imaginable without playing offense, because for him defense is offense, and for many years considering the makeup of the Ravens, comprising complete offensive ineptitude, it had to be.
Right off the bat in his rookie year, we knew Reed was different, a late first round draft pick and starter from day one. We’d seen his big college highlight from the B.C. game, but could that type of domination and speed really translate similarly to football at the highest level, with the globe’s top athletes?
It did. Simply put, Ed Reed was better than everyone else on the field- faster, quicker, smarter, and he also seemed to be personally entertained whenever he happened to come up with the ball, laughing, hitting, lateraling at times unreasonably, having fun, loving football, giving everything he had to the game, with his body on the field and mind in the film room.
Now, with the 2-0 Houston Texans traveling to Baltimore this Sunday at 1 p.m., and Reed’s status of suiting up to face his former team uncertain, but seeming more and more doubtful, Ed Reed now finds himself without a home.
He’s caught in purgatory between an angered Texans fan base convinced they were swindled into overpaying an old man too injured to contribute, and a Baltimore arm-chair GM sect happy to over-emphasize recent years of tackling issues, and scoff good riddance, too quick to cast off all that purple glory his overall body of work brought to their team.
The highlights speak for themselves. Reed changed the way we appreciate football. And five years after he hangs up his cleats in permanence, he can cartwheel into the hall of fame if he so chooses, his game was that good.
But this Sunday, as fellow hurricane Ray Lewis dominates the attention with his Baltimore ring of honor induction, as we celebrate the country’s top professional sports league producing our favorite product, but one that explicitly errs on the side of diminishing the humanness of its players, let’s make sure we properly welcome Ed Reed home.