As you may have heard, Ravens safety Earl Thomas III delivered an “Ed Reed moment” in a training camp practice at the Under Armour Performance Center earlier this week.
I was there. It was quite an impersonation.
Thomas read a throw over the middle, stepped in front of the intended receiver and grabbed the pass at top speed. With an open field in front of him, he sprinted for the end zone knowing he would score and impishly lateraled the ball to a teammate just before he crossed the goal line – a nod to Reed if ever there was one.
With his arms raised in triumph, Thomas then circled back and strutted before a grandstand packed with roaring fans. I couldn’t help wondering if we were witnessing some sort of spirit-possession incident, perhaps orchestrated by the football gods. With Reed set for his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, had the gods somehow channeled him through Thomas, who now mans his position, as a reminder of how truly great Reed was?
Ah, probably not. Thomas, a terrific safety in his own right, just made a play. The Ravens hope to see more of them in 2019. That’s why they signed him.
But Thomas’ spot-on Reed impersonation did get me thinking about the pace of such dynamic playmaking in Baltimore, which, naturally, has slowed a bit since Reed left.
I looked it up. Since Reed departed after the 2012 season, the Ravens’ defense has produced, on average, one pick-6 touchdown per season and a little over one fumble return for a touchdown per season. That’s not bad. But it took a village, as the saying goes.
Reed, meanwhile, produced seven pick-6 touchdowns by himself in 11 seasons with the Ravens. He also reached the end zone via fumble return (twice), punt return (once) and blocked punt (three times).
That’s 13 touchdowns in all, and Reed also delivered countless other game-changing plays that didn’t generate six points.
We came to take it for granted here in Baltimore. That’s undeniable. Remember all those low-scoring Sundays when you hoped Reed would do something (puh-leeease) because otherwise the Ravens might not win or even score?
He came through a lot, and let’s be clear: That wasn’t normal in any way, certainly not an ability that should be taken for granted.
As it happened, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda was scheduled for the interview podium after the practice when Thomas impersonated Reed earlier this week – another right-on-cue coincidence that smacked of a fateful hand. Yanda is one of the few 2019 Ravens who actually shared a locker room with Reed.
Asked about Reed, Yanda said, “Being with Ed, you always took it for granted how special of a player he was. You almost thought it was normal to get those turnovers and interceptions, taking them to the house or completely flipping the field almost every single time. When I was a young player, I really took that for granted and didn’t realize how special that was and how uncommon he was as a player.”
In other words, it’s OK if you’re a fan who took Reed for granted because, well, the players did, too.
Long before he retired, it was clear Reed was headed for Canton. But every Hall of Famer is special for different reasons. Take the three homegrown Ravens who’ve made it. Jonathan Ogden was a human fortress, a gentle giant with freakish foot speed for a tackle. Ray Lewis was a marauding linebacker with a powerhouse personality. Then there’s Reed, a far-ranging safety who called to mind, say, a brilliant jazz riff.
He soared. He veered. He was unpredictable. What he produced appeared off-the-cuff but was, in fact, the product of relentless study and practice.
Do yourself a favor. To honor his enshrinement, take a few minutes and check out some videos of his best plays. They’re amazing, so amazing you might laugh.
Impersonations are a hoot, but nothing compares to the real Ed Reed.