- - Sunday, August 5, 2012

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ed Reed’s mind wasn’t focused on football this offseason. At age 33, the future Hall of Fame safety said more important matters drew his attention.

He has a son in Atlanta he’d like to spend more time with. He has a foundation focused on teaching children aspects of football he didn’t experience while he was growing up. He stayed in shape, working out on his own so that when he decided he was ready for football he’d be ready.

But there was one place you could find Reed over the spring and summer, a place where his mind was at ease. That would be the golf course.

A few years ago, Reed picked the game up and hasn’t stopped playing. Those close to Reed describe him as a critical thinker, someone who enjoys a mental challenge. Golf is an outlet for him, a way for him to compete against himself each time he hits the course for 18 holes.

“I used to love [football] and now something else is coming in between, kind of like a mistress,” Reed said, referring to his affection for golf.

The importance of participating in something that requires mental toughness is a perfect fit with Reed, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who will go down in history as one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. Quarterbacks often fear Reed’s presence when thinking of testing him deep.

In last year’s AFC championship game, when the New England Patriots defeated Baltimore 23-20, Tom Brady had three things written on his wristband:

“Knees flexed — Down! Down!”

“No turnovers.”

“Find 20 on every play.”

Reed’s No. 20 jersey has given quarterbacks headaches for years, and he remains confident in his abilities to play mind games against the best quarterbacks of this era. He loves exercising his brain, and while golf may be a new outlet, there are very few who can out-think Reed on a football field.

“I’m sure they are going to game plan like they always do — write [my name or number] on their wristband and know I’m there and all that,” Reed said. “I welcome them. I look forward to them. That’s probably a question for you critics who said that Ed Reed has lost it, but they won’t throw my way. How have I lost it if they are not throwing my way?”

Separating business from emotion

Reed had an offbeat offseason in the media, filled with cryptic messages and the unknown. Would Reed retire after 10 years in the NFL? Would Reed receive a new contract while younger players Ray Rice and Joe Flacco were in the midst of negotiating deals? Would Reed hold out for a new pact?

Reed has been a focal point for the Ravens organization since the team drafted him in 2002 out of the University of Miami. He’s the franchise leader in interceptions with 57, and ranks 11th all-time in the NFL in this category (tied with five other players).

Story Continues →