Ed Reed's footprint in NFL history is undeniable, considered perhaps the best safety to play the game.
"I can’t say he's the best of all-time because I haven't seen everybody, but he's definitely the best I’ve ever seen," Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "There's a reason people say he’s the best of all-time: Because he plays like it."
The Baltimore Ravens safety also has some loud footsteps. His hard-hitting reputation precedes him, so opponents want to know where he is on the field at all times.
"It's nothing to fear. But he covers a lot of ground. He does a lot of unconventional things," quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "You've just got to be aware of where he’s at."
The Redskins no doubt will be planning for Reed on Sunday because his greatness is more than 10 years in the making. It blossomed at the University of Miami in 2000 and 2001, when he became more than just a kick returner and was a consensus All-American.
Reed had 17 interceptions in his final two seasons at Miami, but his development started before that, thanks in large part to Redskins receiver Santana Moss and Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.
"Me, Ed and Reggie Wayne, we were suite mates when we first came in," Moss said. "Every day was one of those days that we just got each other better [with] different things that we did."
It happened on the practice field, where Reed said Moss' competitiveness as a "fire-starter" got him fired up, too.
"A lot of battles too from the DBs and receivers. I remember Santana getting mad at some of the DBs for covering a certain way and hitting throughout training camp and stuff like that," Reed said. "We tend to get a little physical at Miami."
That physicality didn't stop when the Ravens drafted Reed in the first round in 2002. He has 590 NFL tackles and 11 forced fumbles to his credit, and he hasn't slowed down despite being 34. "He changes the game," Shanahan said.
He does that with more than just big hits. Reed (61 career interceptions, seven returned for touchdowns), is a major threat to pick off Griffin or any other quarterback.
"He knows what is going to happen before it happens," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Ed Reed is in a different zone. There’s not too many guys like him. He’s got a great understanding of offenses. He knows how to set people up, quarterbacks up. That’s why he’s got so many picks and that’s why he’s a great player."
After talking to Moss and hearing about Reed from coaches, Griffin has plenty of respect for Reed. He's an intimidating presence on the Ravens' defense, which has perennially been one of the best in the league.
Moss sees him as a friend, too. Reed called Moss "a brother to me." That was forged at "The U" last decade.
"I remember when I broke my jaw one year, Ed Reed made fun me calling me 'Who Killed Kenny?' because I couldn't talk. I used to mumble everything," Moss said, laughing. "But it was all fun days, man. Who would've thought back then that all of us would be here now. Looking back at those times and playing against each other almost every other Sunday. Nothing but good memories come to mind with those guys.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.