Ed Reed, the ball-hawking safety whose game-changing ability was central to the Baltimore Ravens' defensive dominance for more than a decade, has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Reed's enshrinement was announced Feb. 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, and gives the Ravens their third homegrown Hall of Famer and their second in two years. Ray Lewis was inducted last year, and Jonathan Ogden was inducted in 2013.
Reed is joined in the Class of 2019 by former players Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae and Johnny Robinson, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former executive Gil Brandt.
Reed was the Ravens' first-round draft pick (No. 24 overall) in 2002 out of the University of Miami, and he played the next 11 seasons in Baltimore, culminating with a Super Bowl title in what proved to be the last of his 175 games (including 15 in the postseason) with the team.
He played one final season with the Houston Texans and later the New York Jets in 2013.
His final ledger includes tangible achievements such as several Ravens and NFL records, a Super Bowl championship, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award (2004) and nine Pro Bowl appearances. The way he affected games and set the tone was at times more nuanced but equally dominant in a way rarely seen in NFL history.
"Ed was a difference-maker and a game-changer," former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "And like all great players, he elevated his teammates’ play around him."
Known for his athleticism as well as his keen ability to read the field and the opposing offense, Reed time and again goaded quarterbacks into mistakes by disguising coverage -- or gambling and guessing right. But those were highly educated guesses, developed after sniffing out tendencies through hours of film breakdown.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady knew that as well as anyone; when he faced off against Reed and the Ravens, Brady wrote "Find 20 on every play" on his wristband.
Reed finished his career with 64 regular-season interceptions, seventh-most in NFL history, and had nine more in the playoffs, tied for the most ever in the postseason. He led the league in interceptions three times (2004, 2008 and 2010) and his total of 61 interceptions is nearly twice as many as anyone else in team history. (Lewis ranks second with 31.)
Reed owns the two longest interception returns in league history (107 and 106 yards) and his total of 1,590 interception return yards in also an NFL record.
Reed recorded at least two interceptions in a regular-season game 12 times, tied for the most in the Super Bowl era.
A highlight-reel play waiting to happen every time he touched the ball -- or lateraled -- Reed scored 14 career touchdowns, including a franchise-record nine defensive scores. He also scored touchdowns on three blocked punts, yet another NFL record-tying feat.
Reed became the first player in NFL history to score on a punt return, a blocked punt, an interception and a fumble return.
"Ed just always had a great knack for making a critical play in a critical situation," Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. "He was a finisher. He was a guy that when the lights were on, he was going to make the play. ... He just had a flare for making the best play of the game."
After growing up in New Orleans, Reed starred at Miami before the Ravens drafted him at No. 24 overall in 2002.
He started every game as a rookie and made the first of his nine trips to the Pro Bowl in 2003. In a 10-season span from 2003-2012, Reed made the Pro Bowl every season but one; he missed six games in 2005 with an ankle injury.
With Lewis patrolling the middle of the field and Reed shutting down the back end, the Ravens' defense was consistently among the most feared in the league. The Ravens had a top-10 defense nine consecutive years from 2003-2011, including a top-five defense six times during that span.
The Ravens' 2006 defense ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in interception percentage, when they finished 13-3, the best record in franchise history.
That began a stretch of six playoff appearances in seven seasons for the Ravens, culminating with their Super Bowl title after the 2012 season. In his final game as a Raven, Reed finished with five tackles and -- fittingly -- an interception as the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in Reed's hometown of New Orleans to deliver the Ravens their second Super Bowl title.
"Ed has the hearts of everyone in Baltimore -- not just because he was a great player, but also for how he served others and impacted our community," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who coached Reed from 2008-2012. "He was someone who made everyone better, whether that was on the field, in the film room or simply around town as he created opportunities for those in need."
Reed returned to Baltimore in 2015 to sign a one-day contract and officially retire as a Raven. At Reed's retirement news conference, former general manager Ozzie Newsome said, "We knew when it was time for a play to be made ... we would all say to ourselves, 'It's Ed Reed's time.'"
It's Ed Reed's time once again, this time in Canton.
The official enshrinement ceremony for the 2019 Hall of Fame class will take place Saturday, Aug. 3.
This was updated with quotes from Newsome and Harbaugh that were released by the Ravens.
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Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox