Harbaugh says he wants safety to return for next season
“This is better than I imagined it would be. To come home, to Louisiana, to my hometown with this team and to get a pick. Oh, man.” Ed Reed, Ravens safety who is a former Destrehan star
NEW ORLEANS — When Ed Reed finally took a break from trying to sing “Two Tickets to Paradise” more times in one night than Eddie Money has since he wrote the song 36 years ago, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh grabbed his potentially Hall of Fame bound safety for a short chat on the bus ride from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the team hotel.
“He and I both agreed that we want him back,” Harbaugh said Monday, a few hours after the Ravens’ 34-31 victory against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. “I want him back, and Ed wants to come back.”
Reed, who prepped at Destrehan, is a free agent for 2013. The 11-year veteran could re-sign with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2002, albeit at a reduced salary from the $7.5 million he received this season; go to another team, possibly New England; or retire.
During the week leading up to Sunday’s game, Reed gave hints that he might take the final action. Sunday, Reed deflected most questions about his future, preferring to savor the moment.
“Don’t even ask me about that,” he said after finally reaching the team’s locker room. “I’m just so happy right now.
“This is better than I imagined it would be. To come home, to Louisiana, to my hometown with this team and to get a pick. Oh, man.”
The interception was Reed’s first in nine games and his ninth in the postseason, tying the league record. He was also credited with five individual tackles and a pass broken up.
That was despite playing with strained medial cruciate ligaments in both knees. In the first quarter, Reed briefly went to the locker room for treatment after appearing to plant his right leg awkwardly when defending a pass.
There was an unofficial stat as well. In the fourth quarter, after San Francisco had scored to cut the Ravens lead to 31-29, Reed’s pressure on Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ two-point conversion attempt forced a poor throw that kept Baltimore ahead.
When the Ravens responded with a field goal by Justin Tucker, their five-point margin meant that San Francisco needed a touchdown to win. The Niners didn’t get it, reaching the Baltimore 5 before Kaepernick’s three straight attempts for Michael Crabtree were incomplete.
It was Reed’s ability to still make key plays — plus his leadership, which has been overshadowed by the flamboyance of definitely retiring Ray Lewis — that Harbaugh indicated were valid reasons for retaining Reed.
“You never know how these things work out,” Harbaugh said. “But we are going to work like crazy to work it out because Ed’s a Baltimore Raven.”
One player who will likely be a Baltimore Raven next season is quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco, the game’s Most Valuable Player, chose not to renew his contact in the offseason, and now, after a flawless playoff run (11 touchdown passes, zero interceptions) preceded by winning at least one playoff game in each of his first four seasons, Flacco is in line to become one of the league’s top paid quarterbacks, even if he has never been named to the Pro Bowl.
Monday, receiving his MVP trophy plus the keys to a 2014 Corvette, Flacco could afford to joke about banging on owner Steve Bisciotti’s desk when it came time to negotiate.
“We’ve had some good talks over the last few months,” Flacco said. “It’s nice to go in and have a conversation with him.
“I’m pretty optimistic, but who knows? There are all kinds of crazy things that can happen with these contracts.”
The Ravens could put the franchise tag on Flacco, as the Saints did for Drew Brees before signing him for a long-term contact just before training camp opened, but that is considered unlikely.
Baltimore has some other decisions to make. Along with losing Lewis and possibly Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs will be in his 11th year in 2013.
Offensively, receiver Anquan Bolden, the team’s leading receiver Sunday with 104 yards, also will be in his 11th year, tackle Bryant McKinnie in his 12th, and center Matt Birk in his 16th.
And while Reed’s status might not be settled for a few weeks, he does have definite plans for Mardi Gras.
“I’m coming back to New Orleans and riding in Zulu,” he said. “I’ve never been a parade before.
“And then we’ll just take things from there.”