With his one-game suspension for repeated illegal hits overturned, Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed expressed gratitude for arbitrator Ted Cottrell granting his appeal and to his organization and teammates for throwing their support behind him.
Reed wasn't nearly as warm, though, about the fact that he was punished for what the league described as a pattern of helmet-to-helmet hits. Instead of being docked an entire $423,529 game check for his unnecessary roughness infraction for his hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be fined $50,000.
"The rules of the game have changed a whole lot since I got in the league," said Reed, whose defense team during a conference call with Cottrell included Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, team president Dick Cass and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty as well as NFL Players Association officials. "Over my career, I've never been that guy. I don't plan on being that guy. It's a shame it even came to this point. That's what the NFLPA was saying, that's what Dick Cass was saying.
"It's a shame it even came to this point, being that I've been on the other side of hits that have been illegal towards me. I've got a lot of respect for that organization, the Steelers, and the other teams in the league. I never played the game that way. I know just as well as I can do the hitting somebody else can, too. I have football camps I'm not teaching that to my kids. It's something we have to deal with as players. It's a shame we have to do that."
Reed was fined $21,000 earlier this season for a shot to the head of New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch. The hit on Sanders marks his third violation over the past three seasons as far as helmet-to-helmet contact against defenseless players.
In a letter to Reed, Cottrell wrote: "I have determined that your actions were egregious and warrant significant discipline. However, I do not believe that your actions were so egregious as to subject you to a one-game suspension without pay. Player safety is the league's primary concern in the formation of playing rules and all players are expected to adhere to those rules or face disciplinary action. I hope in the future you will focus on ensuring that your play conforms to the rules."
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome issued the following statement: "The league has an appeal process to review situations like this, and Ed had his opportunity to answer questions about his play. I think John (Harbaugh) and his coaches do an excellent job of teaching the right, safe and legal way to play football, and we believe Ed clearly tries to play within the rules on every down."
That's what bothered Reed as much as anything. He was upset by the suggestion that he was a dirty player.
"It really needs to be discussed for a fine to come down like that so harshly for that hit," Reed said. "Over my career and for them to go back to 2010 for me scratching Drew Brees on the head, even the one that happened in Week 2 with Michael Vick, c'mon, man. I'm going for the ball. It's a contact sport. It's a lot that needs to be done with it, man. I'm just glad I can play with my teammates. I'm not happy with the 50 grand, but what can you do?"
Reed emphasized that his concern about this episode extends not only to him, but to his colleagues around the NFL.
"It's a lot needs to be done, it's not just me on the end of this," said Reed after handing out Thanksgiving meals at Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore along with teammates Cary Williams and Anquan Boldin. "It's a lot of guys across the league that's been on the end of this. We the ones who play the game. It's got to be a fine line between this. This is not over between myself or the league. It's a lot that needs to be done because it is about safety. It is about protecting the players it's something that us as players need to police as well.
"At the same time, we grew up watching the game be played a certain way and playing it a certain way. It is tackle football. It is a contact sport and a brutal one, a violent one at that, the No. 1 violent sport, sad to say. I know concussions has been a big thing. I've had concussions before and I know guys are going to have concussions. If you want to stop it, stop the game. Like people say, it's starting to be a flag football thing. I have a flag football tournament. We can make this a big thing is we want to everybody can come get in my league."
Boldin, who played against Reed for years when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, said that the eight-time Pro Bowl selection doesn't have a reputation for trying to hurt other players.
"I think it was only right," Boldin said of the suspension being overturned. "Ed's not one of those guys. He's never been that type of guy to go out and intentionally hurt somebody or be malicious on the field. Over his career, he's played clean football. I think that's why they overturned the ruling.
"You can't make an example of a guy who's played the game the way he has: hard-nosed, clean, honest. He's one of the leaders at the safety position. I don't think you can make an example of a guy like that."
To have Reed, one of the most instinctive pure centerfielders to ever play the game, in the lineup should provide a boost for a defense that has traditionally struggled to contain strong-armed Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
"That's huge for us, especially the secondary," cornerback Cary Williams said. "We rely on him heavily on Sundays. He's been a playmaker for us. It's great to have him back in the lineup. It's great to have him out there. He was excited. it's an opportunity to go out there. He wants to make plays every Sunday and we rely on him every Sunday. It's huge."