OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens safety Ed Reed has taken on more of a leadership role and Baltimore’s eager youngsters are reaping the benefits of his advice.
In the span of 15 minutes Wednesday, Reed schooled Christian Thompson in the fine art of beanbag throwing — thrashing the rookie safety in a game of cornhole — before advising another teammate about the virtues of signing up for a 401K.
More notably, Reed has become a tireless teacher on the topics of film study and keeping a body fit during a long NFL season. Reed knows quite a bit about both, given that he’s tallied 59 interceptions, scored 14 touchdowns and missed only 22 games over an 11-year career.
Reed turned 34 on Sept. 11, yet the eight-time Pro Bowl star isn’t showing his age. Not one bit.
“He’s playing as well or better than I’ve seen him in the last couple years,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I just think the world of how he’s playing and how he’s leading. He’s been leading us in the meeting room, locker room, training room.”
Reed aspires to be a coach after he retires from the NFL, and it appears as if he’s already getting a jump on his next profession.
“This year more than ever,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “All the other years, he would teach us a little something here and there, but this year, it’s 110 percent. He is teaching us everything that he can possibly know, and I am happy for it.”
Reed is the voice of experience within a secondary that includes the 26-year-old Webb, 24-year-old Jimmy Smith and Thompson, 22.
“I think when you get to the latter part of your (career), you really begin to realize what it’s all about,” Reed said. “I’ve always had an open-door policy to these guys to come to my house, watch tape together or just give them information. We have a lot of young guys, and this business can take a toll on you if you let it. You just try to give them as much information as possible, whether it’s on or off the field.”
When it comes to preparation, Reed could lead by example to prove a point. He’s been bothered by a neck injury since 2009 and is currently monitoring a knee sprain, yet this season he’s registered 18 tackles, picked off two passes and put his name in the NFL record book for career yardage on interception returns (1,506).
Before facing the Ravens last month, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, “He’s pretty much ingrained permanently in my mind. He’s such a playmaker for them, and he shows up in a lot of different spots.”
The work Reed does in the training room helps him prepare to play from one Sunday to the next.
“I just work closely with my doctor on the recovery part of it,” he said. “For me to be 34, I’m bouncing back great right now. I’m doing all the things that help the body recover. A lot of guys don’t know about that. I try to help a lot of guys in the locker room, inform them about taking care of their body. You can be doing insane workouts and all that, but if you’re not recovering and rehabbing, you’re working backward.”
Looking ahead, Reed hopes to turn his passion for football into a coaching job.
“Right now it’s just high school because I want to be around my son,” he said. “I’d love to coach at this level at some point or maybe even college because I feel like you can get the kids while they’re young and still give them information. I’m not sure right now, honestly. I want to coach somewhere around my son because he’s growing up and I want to (make up for) the time that I’ve lost from my family.”
Before then, Reed wants to get a Super Bowl ring. The Ravens (3-1) face the Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) this Sunday, hoping to remain atop the AFC North. Between now and then, it’s a good bet Reed will be poring over film with other members of the Baltimore secondary.
“Because he wants to make sure we are together,” Webb said. “If we study film together, we are on point together.”