Ray Lewis and Ed Reed probably will always be linked, two longtime friends who have defined the Ravens' defensive dominance. But as Lewis prepares to play what could be the final home game of his 17-year career on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Reed said he's not thinking about his own future.
"I'm going to go to the next question because I'm not in that mindset," said Reed when asked about his future plans.
The 34-year-old, who was selected to his ninth Pro Bowl last week, is a free agent after the season and the Ravens have a tough decision to make on whether to bring him back. Reed has pondered retirement the past couple of offseasons, and after dealing with shoulder and neck injuries throughout his career, he has said several times that his long-term health will factor heavily in his decision.
While announcing his decision Wednesday to retire, Lewis, 37, cited the importance of spending more time around his children. Reed can relate, having a son of his own.
"Family is No. 1. My son is young, but like I said, I am not thinking about that right now," Reed said. "That's not my question. That question is not for me in my career right now. Maybe later in the offseason, some time I'll start thinking about that stuff. I'm not thinking about it right now."
Reed has been Lewis' teammate since 2002, and both players also have similar backgrounds, having starred at the University of Miami. During their time together with the Ravens, Lewis and Reed have bonded over a love of breaking down game film and helping dozens of younger teammates.
Reed said Lewis told him this past offseason that the 2012-13 campaign would be his last, so while the inside linebacker surprised many of his teammates Wednesday by walking up to the front of the auditorium and telling them that these playoffs would be his "last ride," Reed was hardly fazed.
"Like [Terrell Suggs] said, 'bittersweet' all at the same time. You want to see the guy play. You want to see him play the thing that he loves because we all love it," Reed said. "But, he put things in perspective. I told him, 'You really put things in perspective because all of us have that moment.' All of us are going to have that moment where it's all over. To be part of Ray Lewis' career in my 11 years here with him, it's been amazing. I'm nothing without the D-line and the linebackers. Without Ray, my career probably is not the same."
Reed didn't remember his exact reaction when Lewis told him of his retirement plans, but he said that the two talked about finishing on a great note and getting to New Orleans, the site of this year's Super Bowl.
"Right now, we are trying to build to that moment," Reed said.
Playing through a labrum tear in his shoulder, Reed has had an uneven season, collecting a team-high four interceptions and three fumble recoveries while breaking up 15 passes. He is just one of two defensive starters (cornerback Cary Williams is the other) to play in every game this season. However, his tackling has come under scrutiny both by the media and the league. Reed has been fined three times by the NFL this season for hits on defenseless receivers. A one-game suspension following his hit on Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on Nov. 18 was ultimately revoked after he won his appeal.
Still, Reed, whose 61 career interceptions rank first among active players since he entered the NFL in 2002, has always been at his best during playoff time. Reed has eight interceptions in 11 career playoff games, also the most among active players.
"Just watching film with Ed [Thursday], he calls out things way before they happen," said Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones. "How he sees the game is unbelievable. It's from years and years of doing it. Sometimes, I sit down with him to see what he sees. He's a safety, but I still pick his brain because he sees it all. He's watching the quarterback, offensive linemen, receivers. He sees the whole picture."
Come Sunday, Reed will likely be announced right before Lewis in what could be the final home game for both of them. It will be an emotional day all-around for Reed. Indianapolis Colts head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano recruited Reed to Miami and is a father figure for him. Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne was Reed's roommate in college, and the two talk regularly and will meet for dinner Saturday night. Then, there is Lewis who will dance out of the tunnel at least one more time.
"The emotions are going to be flying," Reed said. "They are already going this week. Once I come out of the tunnel, it's a totally different ball game, and [I am] a monster after that. It'll be exciting to see Ray walk out of that tunnel. Hopefully, that's not the last time we see him coming out of the tunnel. It's going to be exciting."
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times