Playoffs offer comfort to Ravens’ Reed

When Ed Reed is with the Baltimore Ravens, he acts like everything is normal.

The Pro Bowl safety is still attending meetings. He’s still going to practice. He’s still hanging out in the locker room.

But everything is far from normal in Reed’s world. His brother has been missing since Jan. 7, two days before the Ravens’ 30-7 wild-card victory at Kansas City.

What has helped Reed through the ordeal is relying on his family — the one in his home in Louisiana and the one here with the Ravens.

"This is, like I said, a child’s game that we play," Reed said. "It’s not tough to focus on this. Being around these guys helped me stay focused and going forward in life, knowing that God has got everything. I’m not worried, and I wasn’t worried about football. That’s the least of my worries."

Authorities near St. Rose, La., Reed’s hometown, have yet to find Brian Reed, 29, who — according to his mother, Karen Reed — has had a troubled history with drugs and alcohol.

Police said Brian Reed leaped into the Mississippi River, and the water temperature was about 40 degrees, when he was trying to escape officers who thought they had stopped a stolen car. The family said Reed was driving one of his brother’s cars. His mother said authorities had found her son’s jacket and shoes. Police eventually called off the search for him but said they believed he swam about 15 feet before they saw his arms above water.

Some wondered whether Ed Reed would even make the trip with the team to Kansas City last weekend, but the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year said he never thought about missing the game.

"Not at all. It’s my job," he said. "I know at the end of the day, it’s all going to work out. It’s in God’s hands. There’s a bigger picture — bigger than us."

In the locker room following the win at Kansas City, wide receiver Derrick Mason handed the game ball to Reed in memory of his brother.

Reed held up the game ball as teammates huddled around him. "My family would appreciate this and so would my brother," Reed said in an emotional message, as he held back tears. "My brother would want us to beat Pittsburgh."

So, that’s what Reed intends to do — beat Pittsburgh in Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game. Reed went to Louisiana to be with his family for one day before returning to Baltimore to begin preparations for the Steelers.

"He was in good spirits," coach John Harbaugh said. "He seemed like he was doing pretty well."

Reed has been the top playmaker for the Baltimore defense that is trying to beat Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since 2006.

Running back and close friend Willis McGahee, also a Miami (Fla.) product, said the players knew Reed would come back quickly to be with the team.

"Ed’s not the type of guy who’s just going to stay away from the game," McGahee said. "He loves the game, he loves the guys in this locker room. He has a lot going on right now, but as a team, we have his back, and as a friend, I’ve got his back. So I knew from the beginning, he was going to come back. He just had to go home and check on his family."

The past year has been a difficult one for Reed. He hinted at retirement last winter. He underwent hip surgery in the spring. He then campaigned for more money in the summer.

Reed began the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which sidelined him for the first six games. When he returned, Reed was back to disrupting offenses and worrying quarterbacks.

He led the NFL with eight interceptions even though he played 10 games. He was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December with four interceptions in the final two regular-season games.

As well as he’s been playing, Reed has acknowledged that he isn’t at full strength. He injured his ribs after an interception in the regular-season finale.

"I’m trying not to let it stop me, but it’s painful just dealing with it," Reed said.

That pain is nothing compared to the emotional hurt he’s dealing with these days. But he’s not sharing it alone.

"We circled around him," defensive end Cory Redding said. "We consoled him and let him know that we were going to do everything we could. We had his back, and we let him know, ‘When you hurt, we hurt.’"

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said the Ravens wanted to give Reed "three hours of peace" in Sunday’s wild-card game.

"Let’s go out there and have fun with your football brothers, and we started doing that," Suggs said. "It definitely was an emotional win for him and the rest of us, too. We really wanted to play for him and have fun with him, just kind of give him peace, put his mind at ease for a little bit."

Several players said Reed will serve as motivation for this year’s Super Bowl run.

"I told the guys (Saturday), ‘Let’s keep Ed on the field as long as possible because it gives him something to think about,’" Mason said. "When it’s over, that’s the hard part. Hopefully, he won’t get off the field until February."