"If we had to play the Super Bowl now, one game, I think I could go out there and smart it up a little bit, using the mind a little more than the body just to give our team something."
- Ed Reed, in an interview with 105.7 The Fan which can be found here
This quote and the rest of the interview had me thinking. What week, against which team will Ed Reed believe to be necessary for him to play and help ensure the Ravens would make it to the playoffs and then the Super Bowl? I think it's fair to assume that he would want to after all.
I am not saying that the fate of the Ravens success lays entirely on Reed's shoulders, think Troy Polamalu with the Steelers last season (sorry I had to, I heard, "If Troy played, we would have won." far too many times) or Bob Sanders during the Colts Super Bowl winning run. In fact, I believe the Raven defense has the tools to win any game even without Ed Reed in the line-up.
We have quality depth behind Reed in players like Ken Hamlin, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura. We will also still have Ed Reed on the sideline, in the ears of his replacement every chance he gets to help them perform. You can't necessary teach instinct, and there may be no one better than Ed Reed instinctualy, but tips and tricks passed on can be enough to make one play the difference. But as long as they play within themselves, the replacements will play fine.
What does all this mean about the return time of Ed Reed? Well, nothing really. This is all my opinion of how the Ravens will be fine without rushing Reed back into the line-up. However, the question posed is, what game will be important enough to warrant putting Reed in, risking any set-backs?
Last season, the Steelers suffered without having Polamalu in the line-up and lost many close games. Polamalu should have sat out longer than he did. The Steelers lost two games in his first absence, which I believed pressured him to return sooner than he should have. His first game back from injury against the Browns he did have an interception, but seemed to be in pain. The Steelers won the next several games with Polamalu in. Polamalu went down in the first quarter of the Steelers loss to the Bengals and would not return for the remainder of the season. The Steelers missed the playoffs.
The 2006 Colt defense suffered without having a healthy Bob Sanders, yet were still able to win games. When a healthy Bob Sanders returned late in the season, the Colts were able to feed off his play and make the push to then go on to win the Super Bowl.
It can be argued that, had the Steelers been more successful with Troy out, he may have returned later in the season, lessening the risk of re-aggravating his injury. Also, had Bob Sanders not been entirely healthy upon his return the Colts very well could have experienced a different outcome that year.
Come week 1 this season, if Ed Reed is in the line-up, I, like many other Raven fans will be holding their breath hoping that his surgically repaired hip and the nerve impingement in his neck hold up in what is known as the grueling sport of the NFL. If Ed Reed is not in the line-up, look for him on the sideline coaching, rooting, and hollering with his teammates. All eyes will be on Ed Reed if the Ravens falter in his absence. If the Ravens are successful without him, I say take your time Ed, it's in Dallas this year.