Back in September, when Ed Reed returned to Baltimore to make his Houston Texans debut, an appreciative crowd at M&T Bank Stadium serenaded him with “Reeeeeeed” as he ran out onto the field and hundreds of fans waited after a blowout Ravens win to pay tribute to one of the greatest players in team history and say goodbye as he disappeared down the tunnel.
No one — especially not Reed — thought he would be back in Baltimore two months later.
But after a bitter divorce with the Texans, who released him last week, Reed has reunited with an old friend in former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the coach of the New York Jets. He was surprised the Texans let him go but is already comfortable with the Jets.
“Very comfortable,” Reed said on a conference call with Baltimore media. “That was part of my decision signing here, knowing that I knew the defense and could come in here and be effective and not worry about all the B.S. that goes along with the business side of things.”
Reed, who made 16 tackles and intercepted no passes in seven games for the 2-8 Texans, was cheerful and candid for most of a conference call that lasted more than 12 minutes and he was critical of his former team, specifically Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Reed said Phillips was probably “the reason I'm not there.” He said the Houston defense “is not a good fit for a lot of people who are still down there.” And he responded to those who have criticized his play this season by saying that quarterbacks have been avoiding him.
But the 35-year-old doesn’t regret signing with the Texans, who rolled out the red carpet for Reed and gave him a three-year, $15 million deal months after the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
“I’m past it, man. I wasn’t frustrated because God doesn’t make mistakes,” Reed said.
When Reed was released, Ryan rushed upstairs to talk to Jets general manager John Idzik about possibly signing Reed. Ryan said that Idzik already knew he was coming. They agreed that Reed still had something left to give and gave him a one-year deal.
Asked what he would be doing if the Jets hadn’t signed him, Reed replied, “I don’t know. I’m pretty sure someone would have called. I know I wasn’t ready to go play golf.”
Reed made three tackles in last week’s debut, though the Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills.
Ryan, who thought Reed played well, believes it is unfair to compare this Reed to the one who was “the greatest free safety in the history of the sport” while in his prime.
“Let’s see how he finishes this year, because you guys forget, he helped put that ring on your finger with his play even last season,” the coach said on his conference call.
The Ravens drafted Reed in the first round in 2002. He spent a decade in Baltimore, was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. But the Ravens showed no interest in Reed after the Texans cut him.
Some of this former Ravens teammates admitted it will be a little weird seeing Reed, who is wearing No. 22 for the Jets, again with his second team this season.
“That’s pretty weird,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “He has Baltimore in his heart, but he’s representing New York.”
Reed isn’t sure if New York will be the last stop in a career that will likely get him enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is solely focused on the playoff push.
“I’m going through this season, playing the way I play,” Reed said. “I always love football and I always had a vision in my head of how it would go for me. I know I’m still effective and I know the quarterbacks across the league haven’t been throwing the ball my way. I hope it changes this week. It probably won’t, but we’ll see.”
Reed, a non-factor against the Ravens in Week 3, isn’t sure how he will received by Ravens fans on Sunday, acknowledging that the situation is “a little different” this time.
“Those guys are playing for something. We’re playing for something. I’m sure the welcome will be good, though,” Reed said. “I spent a lot of time down in Baltimore and I plan on spending a lot of time in Baltimore after football, so I hope there is a warm welcome.”