I make no secret about being an alumni of The University of Miami, and as such, I make no secret that I tend to follow Hurricanes players throughout their careers. So you won't be surprised when I tell you that my favorite player in the NFL today is Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Reed is widely considered to be not only one of the best safeties in the NFL, but one of the league's top defenders. He's the type of player you can learn from by just watching him. But by talking with him, you can also gain some insight. Reed took a conference call with the media before the Ravens' AFC Championship Game at the Steelers -- here are some of the highlights that might interest you as a Fantasy Football owner.
Every time Willie Parker goes up against the Ravens, he's slammed. He's never scored on the ground against you guys, never had a 100-yard game. I know you guys are good vs. the run against everybody, but what is it about your defense that makes life tough on him?
Reed: "The front seven. The front seven are doing a great job. It's not just with Willie Parker, it's just with running backs in general. They take pride in stopping the run -- <i>we</i> take pride in stopping the run, but it's a totally different game now. Willie Parker is looking a lot healthier. He's running the ball a lot tougher, a lot harder. So, we've definitely got to step our game up."
And with that in mind, how did you guys rebound after the Giants game where they ran on you?
Reed: "The way you've seen us rebound to get to this point."
You go up against Joe Flacco in practice all the time. Can you tell us when you saw him transform from a bright-eyed college passer into an NFL quarterback? When did it happen?
Reed: "Just when I first saw Joe Flacco in mini-camps, when I saw him throw the ball, knowing that Joe can throw. He can throw the ball. When I first saw him in training camp, man, he threw his first ball, I already knew what we had in him. And it was just a matter of time, like I always said, just a matter of time of him developing into the guy he wanted to develop into. And, he still has a long way to go."
So who's the next Ravens offensive player who we should know about?
Reed: "Shoot man, Le'Ron McClain. You already know about that guy. (Offensive guard Marshal) Yanda, who got hurt. And we've got some young receivers who haven't been playing (Marcus Smith, Justin Harper) or who are on practice squad (Edward Williams, Ernie Wheelwright). If they continue to grow, they definitely could be some show-stoppers."
What's your take on McClain getting this role in the offense and taking advantage of it?
Reed: "It's just a tribute to the team, how guys step in and step up when their number is called."
And Willis McGahee has dealt with it well. He's still getting his carries and doing pretty well with them.
Reed: "Yeah, of course. That just goes to show his heart, full of team chemistry. He's going to do whatever it takes. It's no different than Edgerrin James down in Arizona. Willis took advantage of the time he had off because he was hurt. He was playing with a lot of injuries early on in the season, and that was being pointed out in a negative way, but he took advantage of that, and now he's doing the things that he needed to do on the field."
Is there a difference between this defense and those from the past?
Reed: "Nothing has changed with this defense. If you go back and look at the past couple of years, nothing really has changed. Guys go down, guys are in, guys step up. It's the same mold. Nothing has changed with this defense."
Your defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is a candidate to be a head coach in a number of places around the NFL. How would you describe him as a coordinator, and do you think he'd make a good head coach?
Reed: "After the season is done, we'll see (about) that. I think Coach is a hell of a coach, what he brings to the table. He's definitely tradition-oriented and can step in anywhere right now and lead a franchise. But that's not on me. That's up to GMs to make that decision. But as a defensive coordinator, we already know what Rex Ryan brings to the table."
You guys aren't surprising many people as the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, and one of the most underrated elements of the postseason is momentum. How important is momentum to have on your side in the playoffs?
Reed: "Momentum is always huge. Momentum is always huge. That's why you play the game accordingly, and hopefully it stays on our side."