With Camp Under Way, Reed Seems More Sure Of Himself
NOTEBOOK: NEW TIGHT END IN TOWN; BALTIMORE'S PULL ON PAGANO
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- Since training camp began, Ed Reed has become a creature of certainty, rather than an ambassador of ambiguity.
Throughout the offseason -- and, for that matter, a few down-time periods during recent years -- Reed's messages have been mixed, vexing team officials, fans and media alike.
This spring and summer, Reed's said he could play four or five more years, then said he wasn't fully committed to the 2012 season. Later, he tweeted, "Tell the bosses I'm comfortable."
But with the start of workouts at the Under Armour Performance Center, Reed has fulfilled teammate Ray Lewis' prophecy, made during the spring practice season, that his fellow University of Miami alumnus would be ready to go.
For Reed, there was no greater sign of that than the omnipresent post-interception lateral he tried to pull off toward the end of the final team period of Wednesday afternoon's practice.
"I think they would have called it back, though," Reed said. "I threw it out there a bit in front of [Lewis]. But that just shows the trust the instinct that he plays with and the trust we have in each other."
Reed is one of roughly two dozen Ravens entering the final seasons of their contracts, a group that includes quarterback Joe Flacco. Reed's is a six-year, $44 million deal ($15 million guaranteed), which he signed in 2006, with one year to go on his rookie contract.
But on Wednesday, Reed's message was not a widely scattered shower of inconsistent ramblings. He has shown, verbally and visually, that he wants to play football this year, and he indicated that negotiations toward a new deal were ongoing.
"I have chosen to deal with things the way I've dealt with them," he said. "I'm the kind of guy who doesn't hold things back.
"But I'm here [in camp]. What transpired, transpired because of what I'm going through with my family. All the time, you have to re-assess yourself."
Self-assessment is what Reed has to rely on because he does not have an agent, a situation similar to fellow Hurricanes alumnus and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
"I did not want a middleman in between [during negotiations]," Reed said. "But sometimes, you need someone to say the things that you're not able to say."
Reed, who turns 34 years old on Sept. 11, is scheduled to make $7.2 million this year and, despite a neck impingement and injuries to his hip, foot and groin since 2009, has still played 38 of a possible 48 regular-season games, as well as all six postseason contests.
"I haven't had surgery for the neck impingement yet," Reed said. "[Also], I had a stinger against Jacksonville. I might be down on the ground for a second or two, but I would always get up and finish the game."
This year could represent a conclusion, not so much to Reed's career, but to topping off a Hall of Fame-worthy resume.
Reed's 57 interceptions lead all active players, and his next pickoff would tie him with Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas for 10th on the all-time list. If he gets eight this year, he could be tied for sixth.
In 2012, the Ravens play against a slew of big-time quarterbacks that have a combined eight total Super Bowl rings -- Tom Brady (three), Ben Roethlisberger (two), Eli Manning (two) and Peyton Manning (one) -- as well as highly regarded elite throwers such as Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer and Michael Vick.
"Bring 'em on," Reed said with a smile. "I welcome them and I'm looking forward to them. Some people said I'd lost it, but how could I have lost it if they won't throw it my way?
"... But when you get old, you hope the young talent comes in and picks up the slack. That's the good thing about guys like Corey Graham, Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Jimmy Smith, Bernard Pollard. Those are guys that make me better."
When the Ravens blew up their roster after the defending Super Bowl champions lost during the second round of the 2001 postseason, Reed -- part of the youngest roster in NFL history the following year -- helped make the Ravens better again.
But Reed has gone through the same epiphany most players go through as they get older -- a job in the NFL, as much as people covet it, also means that one becomes part of a business.
"There's a lot we deal with because it's a physical job," Reed said. "But when something else happens, we'll cross that bridge and let you know then."
During recent months, Reed has never seemed more sure about anything.
PLAYER MOVE: The Ravens had to bolster their tight-end depth in the wake of Dennis Pitta's hand injury, so they went out and signed ex-San Francisco and St. Louis tight end Billy Bajema.
Bajema, a teammate of Ravens backup guard/center Tony Wragge at both stops, is a 6-foot-4, 259-pounder who spent four years with the 49ers and the last three years with the Rams.
Bajema has 38 career catches with two touchdowns, but he has been used mostly as a blocker. He will fight it out with longtime reserve Davon Drew for a roster spot.
The Ravens waived Florida quarterback John Brantley to make room for Bajema, leaving four quarterbacks on the roster: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Curtis Painter and Chester Stewart.
Bajema was given Todd Heap's old number (86), mostly because there was no other number in the 80s available.
INFIRMARY: The team's Physically Unable To Perform list was reduced by one, as defensive end Pernell McPhee (arthroscopic knee surgery) was dressed and participating again.
Also coming back to practice was backup nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who recovered from an undisclosed injury.
One of the three remaining players on PUP is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (hamstring), who welcomed his first child into the world earlier this week, a 10-pound, 10-ounce boy reportedly named Haloti Maximus.
Still on PUP are wideout David Reed (ACL knee surgery) and tackle/guard Jah Reid (calf).
"[Haloti] thinks he's closer [to returning] than he is," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We're working him slower than he's like, but he's started running now."
Though Kemoeatu returned, the seven other players in sick bay did not return to the field. They are wideout Tandon Doss (hamstring); running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring); linebacker Josh Bynes (unknown); center Matt Birk (day off); tackle Bryant McKinnie (back); tight end Dennis Pitta (hand); linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder); and linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles), who is still on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.
PRACTICE REPORT: Even though the calendar has turned to August, Wednesday's training-camp practice at the Under Armour Performance Center was replete with the usual sunshine, heat and humidity.
A few highlights:
- Many Ravens defenders are still smarting from being schooled by the offense during camp's early practices. Danny Gorrer broke up a slant intended for Devin Goda and Jimmy Smith pursued well to the sideline to disrupt a throw for LaQuan Williams.
- Tight end Ed Dickson looks as if he has put on a few pounds of healthy muscle, and with Dennis Pitta out, Joe Flacco aimed several more throws his way on Wednesday. Dickson responded well, beating Brendon Ayanbadejo over the middle and outrunning another defender to make a sideline catch.
- A beautifully thrown touch pass from Flacco to Ray Rice along the sideline left Sergio Kindle behind. But Flacco was disrupted by a few Sean Considine blitzes from the secondary, something that hasn't been seen from this team for a few seasons.
- Despite a reconfigured offensive line that featured Gino Gradkowski at center, Flacco still had adequate time to throw the ball. Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele returned to get most of the tackle repetitions, with Bobbie Williams and Marshal Yanda entrenched at guard.
- Corey Graham sat on a corner route and was in perfect position to make an interception, but he juggled the ball several times before it fell to the ground.
- For some reason, tackle Ramon Harewood was wide open on a tackle-eligible play, but he didn't have enough speed to catch up to the pass.
- Linebacker Albert McClellan has had a good camp, but right tackle Jack Cornell was easily able to hold off McClellan's edge rush.
- Third-string quarterback Curtis Painter had some newfound velocity on his throws, but his receivers didn't help him out, dropping several of them.
- Billy Cundiff was wide right on a 41-yard field goal, his only blemish during a 5-for-6 day. Justin Tucker was successful on all six of his kicks. Both kickers were good from 55 yards, but Tucker's blast -- the ball always seeming to make a louder thud off his foot -- got the biggest cheer of the day from the 200 fans in attendance.
- The piped-in musical playlist got a few new additions Wednesday. On top of artists already listed in Ravens Report on previous days, selections from Ludacris; Earth, Wind & Fire; Ozzy Osbourne; Blue Oyster Cult; and Metallica were heard.
- Notable national correspondents that were in town as part of their annual training-camp tours were Sports Illustrated's Don Banks and ESPN's John Clayton.
PAGANO'S MEMORIES: Former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano may have left town for the Indianapolis Colts' head-coaching job, but his four years in Baltimore must have left an indelible impression.
Pagano's answers to the annual questionnaire given to new head coaches certainly reflect the influence the Ravens' organization had on him.
Pagano listed M&T Bank Stadium as his favorite venue, because of the crowd noise, the marching band and Ray Lewis' pregame dance.
The former secondary coach also cited Lewis as the most inspirational player, as well as the active player who would make the best head coach. Pagano also tabbed free safety Ed Reed as the purest athlete he's ever mentored.
Pagano came up with a surprising answer for greatest overachiever: former Ravens cornerback Corey Ivy, who was a Raven from 2006-09.
But Pagano's toughest player mention should be no surprise at all. It happens to be linebacker Jarret Johnson, who departed for the San Diego Chargers as an unrestricted free agent.
There was also a blank left on the questionnaire for the funniest player, and Pagano went with much-maligned Ravens cornerback Frank Walker. He made people laugh off the field, but he was the author of quite a few pass-interference penalties while on it.
Elsewhere on the new coaches' questionnaires, Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-year head coach Greg Schiano said Ray Rice was the best pure athlete he has coached. Schiano used to mentor Rice at Rutgers University.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: The Ravens are entering their 17th season in the NFL, a great achievement, but not exactly the kind of round number that is usually celebrated by a big anniversary-style party.
If it's any consolation, this year will mark the 15th season of operation for the facility now known as M&T Bank Stadium. There have been no official announcements of any observances of that fact.
Around the league, 2012 brings about a few notable anniversaries:
- This year marks the 120th anniversary of William "Pudge" Heffelfinger becoming the first football player to actually get paid, making him the first professional.
- An ambitious attempt at postseason play, called "The World Series of Pro Football," was first played 110 years ago before being abandoned.
- Official statistics were kept for the first time in 1932, although quarterback sacks didn't enter the official lexicon until 1982.
- This year marks the 50th season of the existence of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, built in the city of the league's origins, Canton, Ohio.
- Forty years ago, the first of many offense-friendly rule changes went into effect: the hashmarks were moved closer to the center of the field to give offenses more room to maneuver and increase scoring. They are located exactly 23 yards, one foot and nine inches from the sidelines and are roughly 6 yards apart in the center of the field.
- In 1987, a quarter-century ago, games were aired on cable television for the first time, and it's now been 10 years since Thursday-night games were first contested.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: When word got out that University of Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall had attended Tuesday afternoon's Ravens' training-camp practice, an unidentified fan used Twitter to poke fun at the many Terps that have transferred since Edsall became coach:
"When Edsall walked onto the field, ten Ravens immediately asked to be traded."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked you in our last entry:
Even though this year's Ravens schedule is tied with St. Louis for the fourth toughest in the league -- based on 2011 win percentages by this year's opponents -- there is solace in that 13 of the 16 games are taking place in the Eastern time zone.
How many times in Ravens history have there been more Eastern time zone games during a single season?
This year's games in Kansas City, Houston and San Diego are the only ones the Ravens are playing outside the Eastern time zone. It may sound like a rather easy travel itinerary, but in fact, the Ravens have had a few down seasons while experiencing this rather common occurrence.
Thanks to the team's East Coast location and the fact that all three AFC North Division rivals are also in the Eastern time zone, the Ravens have played at least 12 of 16 games on Eastern time during each and every year of their existence.
This year's 13-game Eastern slate has been surpassed on more than a few occasions.
Fourteen regular-season games were contested in the Eastern time zone in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002. A staggering 15 games were played without the team having to reset its clocks in 2004 and 2010.
In 2004, the Ravens stuck around the coast by taking on the NFC East, just as they are doing this year. In 2010, the four AFC East teams were part of the schedule, keeping Baltimore close to home that year as well.
Posted Aug. 1, 2012