Just for a second, imagine if you were the Baltimore Ravens starting free safety Ed Reed. Forget your fandom, because you are not a fan now. Forget the money, because you've got more money than most know what to do with.
You've just publicly talked about potentially not playing football this year.
What are the key things on your mind right now?
There are two main considerations when you are a 33-year-old sure thing future Hall of Fame player. The first is your legacy.
Ed Reed's legacy is essentially set in stone. The Ravens' first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft is an eight-time Pro Bowl safety and five-time first-team All-Pro selection. He has an additional three second-team All-Pro selections, one Defensive Player of the Year Award (2004) and was a member of the 2000s' all-decade team.
His 57 career interceptions are tied for 11th all time and he has six career touchdowns including both defense and special teams. The only thing that Reed is lacking from his career is a Super Bowl ring.
Reed was drafted two years after the Ravens won their Super Bowl in 2000.
Undoubtedly, he is one of the most competitive players in the league and will be driven by the fact that he does not boast a Super Bowl victory like his longtime teammate Ray Lewis. The lack of a Super Bowl ring doesn't really affect his legacy the way it would if he were a quarterback, though it will etch away at his own sanity if he finishes his season without one.
If you jump back inside Reed's head, you are very determined to overcome the final hurdle in completing your career with the ultimate team prize, but you are also very wary about what will happen to you after your career is over.
That is factor No. 2.
Most fans don't really care what happens to Reed after his career. His only value really conveys to them as a football player. Reed, on the other hand, is very wary of his health because he still has another 30-plus years of his life to plan for.
The recent suicide of Junior Seau will obviously have had an effect on Reed, just like it did Jacob Bell, who retired ahead of this season after Seau's death despite only just joining the Cincinnati Bengals.
It is unlikely Reed is really considering the ramifications of concussions or long-term hits to the head as much as he is his neck/shoulder. In 2010, Reed had hip surgery and spent the first six weeks of the season on the sideline because of it.
At the time, however, he was also dealing with a neck issue that was getting worse and worse the more he played through it. Reed played through the pain for "multiple seasons." Reed confirmed prior to last season that the nerve still bothered him but he had no plans to have surgery.
“I don’t want to be like these guys having neck surgery and then you got to have another surgery just to continue to play this game. I love this game, but I love myself more," he said.
People may brush off Ed Reed's comments as Reed pulling a Favre, but the reality is at this stage of his career it makes sense for him to be feeling this way and the fact he has previously made these sort of comments should reiterate how serious a situation this is to him.
What should he do? Should Reed risk a life in a wheelchair—or worse, completely paralyzed as is possible with a severe neck injury—so that he can add that final minor detail to his legacy?
In the context of life, a Super Bowl ring is a minor detail. Yes, it will nag him for a while, probably a few years, maybe even a decade, if he never gets one but he will get over it. He won't get over being in a wheelchair or being paralyzed.
That may be the extreme, but that is the possibility. Every possibility must be considered when you take part in such a physical game.
Reed's comments today undoubtedly cannot be seen as a clear-cut statement announcing his retirement. In fact, it is far from it and I hope none of this article is interpreted as hyperbole, but the fact of the matter is those comments opened up the door for Reed to walk away.
After Terrell Suggs went down for the year, Reed is seeing a substantial number of new faces in front of him on defense with a Ray Lewis who has lost a step, or two, or three. Reed's chances at winning a Super Bowl this year aren't as high as they were when last season finished without guys like Jarrett Johnson, Cory Redding and Suggs upfront, or Ben Grubbs on offense, there is a level of transition and uncertainty in the Ravens' camp that hasn't been there in a long time.
Reed could easily be perceiving this as the perfect time to walk away and savor his ability to physically walk away with his full health.
Some may interpret Reed's comments as him looking for leverage on a new contract as his deal is up after this year, but does that really make sense? If Reed is looking for a new deal, why would he be bringing up question marks about his commitment to play the game or his health. How would that help him get a deal from the Ravens or on the open market?
The likelihood is that Reed's comments will prove to be moot and he will play this year, but don't completely ignore his palpitations. If you remember, Olin Kreutz walked away from the Saints last year during the season.
Reed is a lot more than the intimidating free safety we see on Sunday. He is a human being. As with most human beings, there is a lot more to him than appears on the onset.
Fans may think the best thing for him is to continue to play football, but at the end of the day fans are selfish.
Yes, we are selfish.
Most of us don't really care what happens to Reed after his career comes to a close, so you can't blame him for considering the consequences of his decisions right now. Even if you do think he's just looking for attention.
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