Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed discusses the Titans-Ravens rivalry and the NFL’s response to social activism

The Titans and Ravens renewed their rivalry last season with the 6-seed Titans dispatching MVP Lamar Jackson and his 14-2 Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. Our own Justin Melo talked with Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed about the origins of that rivalry, his thoughts on the most recent installment of Tennessee-Baltimore, Kevin Byard’s progress as a ballhawking safety, and the NFL’s response to social justice issues in the United States.

JM: Ed Reed is with us today on Broadway Sports on behalf of Snickers to announce the “SNICKERS Hungriest Player” program is returning for the 2020/2021 NFL season. The honor will be awarded to one player each week who has shown hunger for more with big plays and moments on the field. Who are you pegging to take home the majority of these awards this season?

ER: I hope Lamar Jackson takes a bunch of them home this year. I wouldn’t mind seeing Chicago take home half of these awards with Baltimore taking home the other half.

When I look at the defenses around the league, it wouldn’t surprise me if the 49ers take home a bunch of these honors as well. San Francisco displayed their hunger and got themselves to the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, the hunger was in Kansas City. I’m excited to see how this year plays out. I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m thrilled to be working alongside Snickers. They’re thrilled to bring this honor back for the 2020/2021 NFL season. We’ll see who displays their hunger this season. Who’s going to make the big plays to impact the game and change the course of their team’s season? I’m excited to find out. May the best team win.

JM: You played in some fantastic games against the Titans throughout your career. People forget how bitter that rivalry was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Titans beat the Ravens 20-17 in a wild card game back in 2003. This was during the early part of your career. You actually made a great interception in that game. What do you recall about that game, and that Titans team specifically?

ER: That was a hard-nosed team right there. Steve McNair was still on that Titans team. I remember he didn’t have his greatest performance in that one.

I remember talking to him after the game and trying to pitch him to come play in Baltimore (laughs). It finally happened. I remember playing against those guys and how difficult it was. That game was towards the end of that rivalry we had going with those guys. I’m glad you mentioned that.

I think the rivalry could possibly be back on. It was reignited last season. I don’t know if these guys understand how serious that rivalry was between us.

I remember that interception. I got Steve on that one (laughs). For the most part, that game was a defensive battle. We were always in those defensive battles (laughs). That was a hard fought game. I remember a good bit of that game.

JM: The next playoff battle between the Titans and Ravens I want to touch on is a bit of a sore spot for Titans fans. You guys came away with a 13-10 victory during the 2008 playoffs. The Titans were the No. 1 seed that year. What do you recall about that one?

ER: That was another defensive battle. That was a true playoff game. The atmosphere in Nashville was incredible for that one. It felt like a championship game. That’s back when football was football. It was that type of football game. Those are the types of games I personally enjoy watching. That’s what comes to mind when I reflect on that game.

That victory started a run for us. I believe that’s when we started our run of going to the AFC Championship Game five years in a row. Coach [John] Harbaugh really kicked that off for us.

JM: That’s right. What are your best memories of playing against Eddie George, and playing against AND with Steve McNair, who like you mentioned, eventually became a teammate of yours in Baltimore.

ER: Man. Bless the McNair family. That was my brother. I’m always thinking about him. Man, you just brought up so many memories.

I remember playing against the Titans one year and I wound up at Steve’s house the night before the game. We were just hanging out, playing cards. We had dinner together. We didn’t even care that we were playing against one another tomorrow. That’s how much respect and love we had for one another.

I have so many great memories from playing against the Titans organization. Eddie George is like a big brother to me. He’s really tight with Ray Lewis as well. Samari Rolle was another guy that played for both Tennessee and Baltimore. Samari and I are very close to this very day.

There’s so many people I can bring up. Jevon Kearse is another one. I still speak with Keith Bulluck quite frequently. We had so many battles, man.

JM: That’s great. You briefly touched on the most recent meeting between the two organizations. The Titans sent shockwaves around the league when they handily beat the Ravens 28-12 en route to the AFC Championship Game. Baltimore were the clear favorites heading into that one. I’m curious to get your analysis on the job the Titans defense did against Lamar Jackson in that game.

ER: Give it to Derrick Henry (laughs). That’s what they did. Let the defense do their job and get Henry back on the field.

I don’t know a lot about what Tennessee did, but I was not a fan of what Baltimore did in that game. I didn’t really like the play-calls. I thought Baltimore got away from what they did well all season long. They overthought some things.

I understand that they loved rolling the dice on fourth down through the season, and they did it with a lot of success but the playoffs are a different ball game.

I remember that one play where they went for it around midfield. They didn’t get it and Ryan Tannehill threw a deep ball touchdown on the very next play to make it 14-0 Tennessee.

The momentum swung in that moment. Baltimore never recovered from that. The playoffs are a different animal. They never bounced back from that.

Tennessee played a great game. They did a better job sticking with their game plan. They ran the football at a high level and they played excellent defense. That’s all you can ask for in the playoffs.

You have to understand that it’s a different game. This isn’t the regular season anymore. Baltimore didn’t do a good enough job realizing that. You can’t always do the same things that you did during the regular season. There’s a time and place for everything.

JM: That’s a great summary of how that game played out. Titans safety Kevin Byard often mentions you as one of his idols. You played for Dean Pees in Baltimore. Pees recently retired from his post as the defensive coordinator in Tennessee. Pees often mentioned that he tried to use Byard in a similar fashion to how he utilized you in Baltimore. What are your overall thoughts on Byard and his game?

ER: I need to watch more Kevin Byard going forward. I can’t give you a full evaluation of his game but I know that he had an excellent season in 2019. I spoke with coach Pees a lot throughout the season. We still speak quite frequently, even though that he’s retired.

Coach Pees often told me that he was doing some of the same things in Tennessee with Byard that he did with me in Baltimore. We spoke about that. He had a very similar dialogue with the safeties in Tennessee. That dialogue is so important.

I need to get a better grasp of where Byard is mentally. I know coach Pees always speaks incredibly highly of him. I need to better understand how he studies tape. I would love to sit down with him and pick his brain. I would love to let him pick my brain as well.

If I get a chance to sit down with him and understand how he studies and approaches the game, I would love to understand what he’s trying to do out there.

We’ll see what happens. I’ll be watching a lot more Kevin Byard going forward.

JM: We’d love to see you two get a chance to sit down and watch some tape together. In closing, you’re an activist, you do a lot of good in your community. I wanted to get your thoughts on what’s going on in America right now. More specifically, what are your thoughts on how the league and its owners are handling the situation?

ER: I think the owners and league are doing a decent job. I know they could do a lot more though. They are what I call “the uppers”, the ones who are wealthy enough to influence change in our world.

I’m talking about true change. The owners have that power. Guys like Jerry Jones have that sort of influence. They can speak up more. They’re doing a decent job to save the business. They’re promoting the cause but we need more.

We’re living in a time where we need more from everybody, but those who truly have the platform, we need them to make some calls to our local officials. I know it’s a hard conversation when you have people who are stuck in their ways and refuse to change their mentality and lifestyle that they’ve created for themselves.

Ultimately, everybody wants to feel safe in their home, no matter the size. We all just wanna take care of our families. Everybody wants to feel safe. It’s that simple. At the end of the day, everybody wants to be treated equally.


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