OWINGS MILLS, MD. (AP) - Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed stepped back into his role as a football player Wednesday after spending the past six weeks as a self-appointed cheerleader and coach.
Reed was placed on the physically unable to perform list in September so he could sufficiently recover from offseason hip surgery. On game days, instead of making big plays as Baltimore's last line of defense, he shouted encouragement to his teammates and talked strategy with the cornerbacks and safeties.
"It was definitely fun and different," Reed said. "The most important thing was, how can I get better and how can I help the team?"
Reed is most valuable to the Ravens when in uniform. In his first eight years in the league, he was named to six Pro Bowls, had 46 interceptions and scored 13 touchdowns.
Now he's on the brink of contributing again after practicing Wednesday for the first time this season. Still, there are some issues that must be resolved before the 32-year-old gets the go-ahead to play Sunday against the winless Buffalo Bills.
"I think we'll be prudent, certainly, but there's definitely a possibility he can play," coach John Harbaugh said. "It's going to be based on how he responds to practicing football at a fast pace."
Said Reed: "I haven't moved around how you move around on the football field, as far as plays back-to-back, so it's going to be interesting to see how my body reacts to all the movement and carrying the weight around."
There's also the mental part of the game to consider.
"It takes time to work out those rough spots, the mental lapses you might have on the field," Reed said. "It's like coming into training camp all over again. I know some things, remember a lot, but when you get out there in the fire and moving a lot faster, you can have those brain seizures."
Tom Zbikowski has played well for Reed at the free safety spot. But Reed has been a fixture in the Baltimore backfield for nearly a decade, and is sure to improve a defense that thus far has only three interceptions in six games.
"To get a guy like Ed back, it's probably one of the biggest things that can happen to this team," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Anytime you can get a player like that, wow, the best defensive player in this game, that's a bonus. That's a good thing."
The Ravens survived without Reed, but believe they will flourish with him.
"It's huge. He brings back his leadership, his turnover abilities," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "We just know he has the ability to create turnovers. ... It's going to be good to see him out there with us. I hope he can be the regular old Ed Reed he has been for the past couple years."
And why wouldn't he be?
"His resume speaks for itself. He's a ball hawk in the back end of the field," Lewis said. "When he wants to go get something, he's going to go get it. That takes our defense to a whole other level. We understand it, he understands it. That's the excitement of him being back."
In other news, running back Willis McGahee expressed no hard feelings about not being played in last Sunday's overtime loss to New England. McGahee was healthy, but remained on the bench behind Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain.
"I look at it the same way: If they call my number, I'm going to go out there and play," McGahee said. "This week, next week, whenever they need me. I took it in stride. I didn't take it as no slap in the face or anything."