Reed, Ravens' teammates primed for Pro Bowl

OWINGS MILLS – It's a tropical paradise. A Hawaiian backdrop of blue skies, pristine beaches and swaying palm trees along with women in grass skirts and authentic luaus.It's the NFL's 25th annual Pro Bowl set for Sunday night at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium on the island of Oahu.

This all-star game represents the ideal atmosphere for a relaxing week for the league's top football players, including Baltimore strong safety Ed Reed and a contingent of several Ravens.

Some players treat this week strictly as a reward. For using the Hawaiian gesture of shaka, waving an extended thumb and pinky finger opposite three closed middle fingers in the international symbol for "hang loose."

That's not Reed's primary plan. 

Yes, Reed has been to the beach. 

However, Reed says he has skipped a few luaus and has actually focused intently on the football portion of what amounts to a vacation week for most participants.

A touch of envy has struck Reed as the AFC starting safety practices with members of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots

"I want a Super Bowl ring, too," said Reed in a telephone interview during the middle of a Thursday practice at Aloha Stadium. "It was always a motivator, but seeing the New England guys this week makes me want to win one even more.

"That's what me and Ray [Lewis] are focusing on. We have the same mentality. It's relaxing and fun to enjoy everything the Pro Bowl has to offer, but I'm thinking about next season and how good we could be, too."

Reed is joined in the ESPN-televised game by linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerback Chris McAlister, tight end Todd Heap, running back Jamal Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden

All are starters except for Heap and McAlister.

Outside linebackers Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas were forced out of the game by injuries.

In his second NFL season, Reed tied Rod Woodson's team mark with seven interceptions. He intercepted another pass from Tennessee Titans quarterback and Pro Bowl teammate Steve McNair in a playoff loss.

"Ed Reed is such an outstanding player that we always felt he had Pro Bowl capabilities," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're biased, but it's great the league saw that in him because he was very deserving. He's been building a case since we drafted him."

In 33 career games, Reed has intercepted 13 passes. He also blocked two punts for touchdowns last season.

"I should have intercepted at least four or five more," Reed said. "I dropped too many that I got my hands on. I've got a lot of things I can work on."
Such as?

"Everything," said Reed, who anticipates a smooth transition from Donnie Henderson to new secondary coach Johnnie Lynn. "I can become a lot better football player simply by continuing to work hard."

As he did during his rookie campaign, the former first-round draft pick Miami demonstrated a knack for anticipating quarterbacks' intentions and throws. 

"It's all about studying film," Reed said. "I spent a lot of time at Ray's house concentrating on the details. Big plays don't just happen by accident."

Reed tied for the AFC lead with his interception total last season. As a rookie, Reed led the Ravens with five interceptions.

This season, Reed tied Tim Flynn for the most career blocked punts returned for touchdowns in NFL history since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

"I'm looking for more of the same next year," Reed said.

As for the outcome of Sunday's game, Reed was equally proactive in his prediction: "Just a win. The AFC is going to do it."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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