Baltimore Ravens: Why Ed Reed Is a Distraction the Team Can't Ignore

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Baltimore Ravens: Why Ed Reed Is a Distraction the Team Can't Ignore
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Ed Reed is a popular guy in the Ravens' locker room, so his absence at mandatory minicamps this week was extremely noticeable.

Unfortunately, that absence wasn't surprising, considering Reed's erratic behavior recently. With the Ravens' top defensive player sidelined, Reed is still managing to grab most of the headlines with his comments and absence from OTAs.

To be clear, Reed has earned himself a slightly longer leash than the average player. Even though he did not attend mandatory minicamps, the Ravens are still confident that Reed is working hard and will be in shape for the season.

Reed's performance itself isn't the issue here, though. The issue is the effect that Reed's behavior will have on a young locker room that looks up to him.

Jamison Hensley of ESPN wrote an excellent piece about how Reed's behavior challenges John Harbaugh's authority as head coach, and he couldn't be more accurate. Hensley writes that Harbaugh will need to discipline Reed in some way to maintain order in the locker room.

The problem is that Reed seems to think he's above discipline. In fact, he claimed to feel disrespected by the Ravens at the beginning of April, as reported by The Baltimore Sun. 

A closer look at the interview shows that Reed really doesn't know what he thinks. He mentioned at one point playing for four or five more years, but then he claimed he might not play in 2012.

At this point, Reed doesn't even seem to have a master plan. He seems to just be talking just to get his voice heard, and that never bodes well for a player or his team.

Despite the seeming randomness of his remarks, a common theme is that the Ravens are disrespecting him in some way.

With respect to Reed, that's bull. The Ravens' have never shown anything but respect to all their players. The examples are endless.

When the Ravens had a chance to take away Terrell Suggs' salary due to his injury, they didn't out of respect for him.

The Ravens parted ways with Derrick Mason last offseason, and he still wanted to retire as a Raven because they made him feel at home.

Despite the probability that Ray Rice will hold out in training camp, the Ravens are still saying nothing but positive things about him and his work ethic.

The list goes on and on, and the list of instances the Ravens have openly disrespected players is few.

If using the franchise tag is a sign of disrespect, than the Ravens' use of it on Terrell Suggs twice was a poor show of support for Suggs, but Suggs didn't take it that way.

The franchise tag is simply a tool in the team's arsenal, the same way that a holdout is a tool in the player's arsenal. Suggs knew that, and Rice knows that now.

The reason that these players don't view the tag as a sign of disrespect is because they know how the Ravens operate. The Ravens will never overpay, and if that means letting a player move on, that's what they'll do.

If the Ravens offer less money than another team, they'll happily part ways with the player and wish him all the best. That's not disrespect, that's team-building and business.

Suggs understands that, Rice understands it, yet the concept seems to fail the mercurial Reed. 

Reed will be the highest paid safety in the game in 2012. While he's on the last year of his contract, there is no question that the Ravens would prefer Reed to retire as a Raven.

There's also little question that the Ravens would be willing to sign Reed to a similar deal to the one that is currently making him the highest paid safety in the game.

So where is the disrespect here?

There is none, and that's why Reed's calls for attention are both inaccurate and ill-advised, and the Ravens must do something about them.

Ed Reed is challenging the very way the Ravens do business. If they allow him to make this situation personal, then the young players in the Ravens' locker-room will learn to do the same.

Luckily, the Ravens are too smart to fall into this trap.

The Ravens can and should fine Reed the maximum $72,000 for missing the mandatory minicamp, as they should do for Rice and any other player in the future who decides to miss the minicamp.

The Ravens should then extend an olive branch to Reed. Tell him they can't pay him if he's not there, and they want to pay him.

If Reed doesn't respond to that message, then he is beyond hope.

The Ravens will show Reed the proper respect, but if he doesn't reciprocate, then he must be dealt with swiftly and harshly to ensure a situation like this does not rise again.

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