FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If Chuck Norris was a football player, heâd come in the form of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. You canât game plan for Reed. You can only hope he chooses not to single-handedly destroy your offense.
New England Patriots linebacker Prescott Burgess, who was Reedâs teammate in Baltimore for more than two seasons, said thereâs just no way to prepare for Reedâs presence on the field.
âIâd say no,â said Burgess, whose Patriots play the Ravens on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. âHeâs one of the best safeties to ever play the game. One thing I can say is just to try not to throw it his way. Obviously, you can see that he is a very great cover guy. Heâs not a big hitter like he used to be, but he will come and tackle you if he needs to. Thatâs on the offense. Theyâve got a game plan. Theyâve got to execute the game plan, and hopefully they come out victorious.â
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is also quick to call Reed the best safety in football, as well as one of the gameâs best overall players. Belichick got an up-close look at Reed when he coached the 2007 AFC Pro Bowl team, and Belichick has gushed over the safetyâs ability ever since.
âI donât think thereâs anybody any better in the game, or Iâve seen anybody any better than Ed Reed in terms of disguise, ability to read the quarterback, anticipate plays," Belichick said. âSometimes itâs route. Sometimes itâs formations. Sometimes itâs what the quarterbackâs doing. And on top of all that, heâs got a tremendous burst and acceleration to the football, great hands, timing and ball skills. When you put it all together, he gets around a lot of balls. I think the quarterback has to know every time that ball leaves his hand where Ed Reed is because that guy makes plays.
âHe can play sideline to sideline. Usually [as a defensive coach], you feel better in two-deep defenses than one-deep, but really with Ed Reed back there, I think you almost feel better in one-deep because he can cover the whole field by himself, and you donât have to worry about the other guy covering half of it. He really can handle the whole thing back there. When I was in Hawaii with him for a week at the Pro Bowl and got a chance to work with him — I mean, I know it was the Pro Bowl, but to work with him on a daily basis in practice, and really watch him up close, and tell him what to do, and watch him do it, and that type of thing — that was even more impressive. Heâs a rare, rare player at that position, as good as any Iâve ever seen.â
Reed was a first-round draft pick out of Miami in 2002, and he has made the Pro Bowl five times in seven seasons. He has also been a First Team All-Pro four times, including each of the last three seasons. If he didnât miss six games due to an injury in 2005, he might be working on a streak of five consecutive All-Pro selections.
In 109 career games, Reed has recorded 44 interceptions, six forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, seven defensive touchdowns (five on interceptions, two on fumbles), one safety and five sacks. Reed has also scored four touchdowns on special teams.
âHe can do it all back there,â Belichick said. âHe blocks kicks. He returns kicks. He returns interceptions for touchdowns. He scoops up interceptions for touchdowns. Heâs always around the ball and thatâs usually bad for the offense when he is. Heâs a great football player.â
Reed has had at least five interceptions in every full season heâs played — with career highs of nine in 2004 and 2008 — and he already has one in 2009. Itâs tough for quarterbacks to pump-fake Reed or look him away from a receiver because he has such strong route recognition.
So, while quarterback Tom Brady is sleeping Saturday night, Reed will be waiting, with both eyes open, counting to infinite.
âI was hoping that heâd take this week off,â said Brady, who has been intercepted once by Reed. âHeâs tough back there on quarterbacks. It feels like he leads the league in interceptions every year, which is tough to do when every team goes into the game thinking that weâre not throwing Ed Reed interceptions. And he does. He just makes some spectacular plays.â