Notebook: Ed Reed rejoins teammates

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed rejoined his teammates on Tuesday, returning to the training complex after spending time with his grieving family in Louisiana following the disappearance of his younger brother in the Mississippi River.

Brian Reed, 29, jumped into the river to elude police last Friday. And the search has been called off by authorities after they only found the jacket and shoes of Reed, who had a history of problems with drugs and alcohol. Ed Reed attended meetings and participated in an afternoon practice.

"'Ed got back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He was in good spirits. He seemed like he was doing pretty well." Reed declined an interview request. It wasn't a surprise in the locker room that Reed returned to work so quickly even though Harbaugh had told him to take all the time he needed to deal with this trying personal situation.

"Ed's not the type of guy who's just going to stay away from the game," McGahee said. "He loves the game, he loves the guys in this locker room. "He has a lot going on right now, but as a team, we have his back. As a friend, I've got his back. So, I knew from the beginning, he was going to come back. He just had to go home and check on his family."

Reed's presence was meaningful to his teammates, and the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year smiled while listening to them talk about his dedication.

"It means a lot, it shows where his mind is and it definitely shows where his heart is," cornerback Cary Williams said. "It takes a special person, and he's an unselfish person definitely. It takes a special person to deal with what he's going through and be here at work and be totally focused." Reed traveled to Louisiana on a private jet following the Ravens' 30-7 wild-card win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection returned in time to not miss a minute of preparation for Saturday's playoff game. Reed led the NFL with eight interceptions despite missing the first six games on the physically unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery.

"The guy is unbelievable," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Just his presence on the field, and for him to go out and play the way he did going through what he did last week, I've just got that much more respect for the guy." NO HARD FEELINGS: Harbaugh joked Monday that he was glad the Ravens broke Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's nose during the last meeting, a 13-10 Pittsburgh win. He was complimenting Roethlisberger on his toughness.

Roethlisberger said he didn't have any hard feelings toward Harbaugh, a fellow Miami of Ohio graduate.

"Coach Harbaugh and I have a pretty good relationship," Roethlisberger said. "I always talk to him before the game, just kind of a hello. He's a Miami guy, so I don't think he really meant anything malicious by it." Harbaugh reiterated that he was kidding about being glad about the broken nose, which was caused by an inadvertent swat to the face by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. "Go back and listen to it, you'll see it was in humor," Harbaugh said. "It was in response to a humorous question and I was laughing. It was tongue in cheek, it was fun. I took the opportunity to praise him for how tough he is. "I go back a long way with him. I've known him since he was a sophomore in college. I have tremendous respect for him. He knows we try to be physical, Pittsburgh plays physical and that's the way we want to play, but it was tongue in cheek."

GETTING HEALTHIER: Backup safety Tom Zbikowski's back is improving, but remains noncommittal on whether he'll be playing Saturday. He did say there's a better chance of that happening now.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I definitely think so." Dealing with a bulging disc suffered against the Houston Texans on Dec. 13, Zbikowski returned to practice last week. Including the first-round playoff win in Kansas City, he has missed the past four games. "Yeah, it's feeling good," Zbikowski said. "Coach made the right decision this week. It feels good. But after being out for so long, I know the coaches can't take much of a chance. "It's feeling good right now and we'll see what happens. Got to keep practicing, keep feeling better and show that I can play."



IN AGREEMENT: Harbaugh joked about not understanding the tuck rule. Cornerback Lardarius Webb slapped the football away from Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel on Sunday, but an instant replay challenge overturned the initial fumble and fumble recovery call and it was ruled an incompletion. "When that happened, my thoughts on the tuck rule were, ‘What's the tuck rule, again? How does that work?'" Harbaugh said. "Little bit confusing. It looked like a fumble to me. The tuck rule, that's one of the more confusing rules in football."

And former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira agrees with Harbaugh. Pereiera said the rule interpretation was applied correctly, but he doesn't like the rule at all. "I think it's time to change this rule," Pereira wrote in his weekly FOX Sports column. "A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball. If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be fumble." Under the rules, a quarterback's throwing motion starts when he cocks back to throw and doesn't end until it's tucked into his body. "I thought it was a fumble," Webb said. "It was a good hustle play. It was all set up by Paul Kruger. He helped me get open."



TALKING CBA: Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth participated in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, discussing the dim prospects for a new collective bargaining agreement. A member of the NFLPA executive committee, Foxworth, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and assistant executive director of external affairs George Attallah discussed the situation. They are opposed to the NFL's proposed 18-game season.

"We put our bodies on the line and produce a lot of revenue and we get five years of post-retirement health insurance," Foxworth said. "And then they want to tack on two more games ... which is just going to multiply the injuries and the ailments that we're going to see after we go into our 40s, 50s, 60s,70s, if we're lucky. We're not willing to budge on health and safety, and we'd like to gain some more ground in ways we can protect former players and current players." Added Fujita: "There are so many things now, with player health and safety, and the future of us and our families, that aren't even being considered. And for us, it's disappointing.It feels like a slap in the face."

Foxworth said he'll need to get health insurance when the current agreement expires. And Foxworth and his wife are new parents. He finished the season on injured reserve after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in August. "We had a daughter five weeks ago and they're threatening to cut off my insurance when March hits," Foxworth said. "I'm on IR. I've given up my body to help advance the league." Foxworth said he has advised teammates to save their money in case a lockout commences. "I know in our locker room we are prepared," he said.

READY FOR BAD WEATHER: The Ravens are bracing for a chilly, snowy afternoon of football Saturday. There's a 30 percent chance of snow, and the temperature forecast is an icy 32 degrees. With many players eschewing long sleeves, the Ravens appear to be built for the cold and thrive in inclement weather.

"Yeah, it would be fitting," Harbaugh said when asked about the chance of snow. "We would welcome a lot of snow. Pretty sure they'll get the field cleared off, but we don't really care. I'm pretty sure they won't be canceling the game in Pittsburgh. If the governor has anything to say about it, for sure."



ROOTING INTEREST: Former Auburn standout offensive guard Ben Grubbs couldn't stop smiling. His alma matter won the BCS national championship with their 22-19 victory in the Fiesta Bowl. And Grubbs' wallet was fatter after cashing in on bets from former Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. "It's nice, man," said Grubbs, pulling a thick billfold of cash out of his pocket. "It's just nice." Grubbs was on the undefeated 2004 Auburn team that didn't make it to the national championship because the Tigers ranked behind Oklahoma and USC in the BCS computer rankings. "I'm just happy for the boys," Grubbs said. "They earned it, they deserved it. Hopefully, they'll enjoy this for another year. I didn't have any doubt. "I've seen those boys play, I've seen them practice. I know what they bring to the table, and that's speed and toughness and determination, and when you have that combination, you really can't go against that."

Rookie tight end Ed Dickson, a third-round pick from Oregon, attended the game in Glendale, Ariz., leaving before the fourth quarter. "I was kind of glad that I got out of there because the camera probably would have been in my face and I would've shed a tear," Dickson said. "I just felt for those guys. They worked hard this year. They didn't know how it felt to lose a game until the last one."

Dickson said he's been taking some ribbing from teammates, although not from Grubbs. "Ben's actually pretty good," Dickson said. "It's the other guys. It's Donte' Stallworth talking about the SEC. I told him, ‘Man, we beat up on your school earlier this season. You can't even say anything.' It was a game that everybody was waiting for, and they gave them their money's worth."

Grubbs said that Ngata won't bet against his Tigers in the future. "No, he understands," Grubbs said. "He knows that he should never bet against Auburn, so that will never happen again."



HIGH STAKES: As far as Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is concerned, the winner of Saturday's playoff game will win the Super Bowl. "You can argue Atlanta and New England, but anyone could argue the winner of this game will most likely go on to win the Super Bowl," Suggs said. "You can put that out there because that's what these two teams got."

Steelers free safety Ryan Clark told Pittsburgh reporters that Suggs' take is a bit premature. Plus, the Patriots are 8-5 favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Steelers are getting 6-1 odds and Baltimore has been installed at 9-1.

"Clearly it's not for the Super Bowl because it's the divisional playoffs, so we're not going to say that,'' Clark said. "It is what it is, man, it's a divisional playoff game against an excellent opponent, an opponent we know well, an opponent we respect. It's going to be fun." PITTSBURGH TIES: Back when he was 24 years old, Harbaugh was a graduate assistant coaching tight ends at the University of Pittsburgh in 1987. "We had a great staff, John Fox the defensive coordinator," Harbaugh said. "It was just a great bunch of guys. We won a lot of games, too. We beat Notre Dame and Penn State, good history." The Panthers' star running back was the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. "That was our guy," Harbaugh said. "The entire defense got drafted and played in the NFL, and the offensive line. Great team."

QUICK HIT: Suggs has characterized this game as Armageddon.

"Yeah, but it's about what is on the line," Suggs said. "They call it Armageddon as the fight between good and evil. I am a big Star Wars fan and the emperor said, ‘Evil is only a point of view.' I guess it is from whose point of view it's coming from."

So, who's good and who's evil? "I don't know," Suggs said. "I guess from your point of view that I am definitely evil. This is a great game. I love this game and I am sure they do, too."

Harbaugh was amused about the description of the game.

"The biblical description of Armageddon is the end of the world," Harbaugh said. "I'm hopeful that it doesn't take place on Saturday. I think we're all looking forward to the sun coming up on Sunday morning and I'm pretty sure it will. I think he's just saying that it's obviously going to be a tight football game."

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