Ravens' Reed wins NFL Defensive Player of the Year

OWINGS MILLS -- It wasn't an accident. Ed Reed formulated multiple plans en route to becoming the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.<br><br> Whenever the Baltimore Ravens' strong safety watched film of opponents, he studied quarterbacks' eyes and tendencies, searching for a false step or if the receivers wore gloves or if they took it easy on running plays.

Reed plotted how to victimize offenses throughout his strenuous workouts with linebacker Ray Lewis, his chief mentor.

Ultimately, Reed outsmarted most or imposed his will with an uncoachable burst to lead the league with a team-record nine interceptions. And after establishing himself as perhaps the best safety in the NFL, he was honored Friday for having the best defensive season by the Associated Press.

The recognition makes Reed, 26, the second Baltimore player to claim the award in the last two years as he succeeds Lewis, a fellow Miami football alum.

"The fact that Ray and I trained together and talked about it and knowing that you can get to this level on discipline and focus, he pretty much walked me to it," said Reed, a two-time Pro Bowl selection. "He was giving up his time to me. There are certain things that he taught me.

"This last off-season, being able to workout with him, for me to achieve the award and him to have done it already, it's truly an honor to be among such great names that achieved this before our time."

Reed's emergence as a game-changing athlete was noted by opposing coaches all season long, whether it was New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick or Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

They knew. They watched him break on the football as few can to become the Ravens' leading all-time interceptor with 21.

"Ed Reed is so fast when the ball is in the air," said Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage, the Ravens' former director of player personnel. "You can't teach that. You either have it, or you don't."
Lewis was never surprised by Reed's accomplishments.

Reed broke an NFL record for interception return yardage with 358 yards that had stood since 1961. He also broke the NFL record for longest interception return with a 106-yard touchdown to seal a victory over the Cleveland Browns.

"He deserves it," Lewis said. "He prepares like a coach. He loves to play, period. He brings joy to work. He's tough and smart."

Reed scored two touchdowns this season, and the Ravens were 7-1 in a disappointing 9-7 campaign when he intercepted a pass.

He forced a Mark Brunell fumble on an aggressive blitz and scooped up the loose football for one touchdown in a comeback win over the Washington Redskins. A 104-yard interception for a score against the New York Jets was nullified due to a holding penalty.

Reed said it's irrelevant whether he garners acclaim as the best safety in the NFL.

"It's not even about being the best safety in the league," Reed said. "My play is my play and any other safety in the league, their play is their play. My play speaks for itself.

"I'm not comparing myself to anybody else in the league. Either they're going to top it or they're not. The stats speaks for itself."

Reed finished with 89 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In three seasons, Reed has blocked four punts, scoring on three to tie an NFL record.

"It was put together over time to drive me to get to this point and display the talent I've been displaying," Reed said. "My game has truly been consistent, and my numbers have been consistent. It was just a matter of time."

Reed said there's no science to what he's doing, equating his productivity to the oft-used cliche of being in the right place at the right time.

Watching film until his eyes hurt was a major factor in how Reed anticipated offenses, and continually impacted games.

"It's repetition of what they're running," Reed said. "It's a matter of dedicating yourself to that time."

Reed's blue-collar work ethic was forged by his parents in Louisiana, where his father works as a ship welder.

"They've been there to provide for me through the struggles of my childhood," Reed said. "That drove me to this point."

Reed's penchant for gambling did lead to some long touchdowns. Overall, though, the Ravens had few complaints.

They allowed only 14 touchdowns, and surrendered 195.1 passing yards per game.

Reed said he didn't focus on winning the award, partly because the Ravens didn't qualify for the playoffs for just the second time in five seasons.

"OK, you did what you did as an individual, but the team didn't do anything, so it's kind of down for the moment," Reed said. "I recognize the blessing, but it's still a matter of what the team has to do in the future."

For Reed, it was a typical low-key approach. He said he had no designs on celebrating, or changing his nose-to-the-grindstone style.
Why mess with success?

"I'm going to do what I do," Reed said. "Being the NFL Defensive Player of the Year doesn't change who I am. People need to understand that. I'm not going to change nothing because of what I've achieved."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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