Commentary

12 things: The Ravens need Reed

Updated: July 30, 2010, 1:09 PM ET
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine
Ed ReedAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThis could be the permanent look on Ed Reed's face if he doesn't get a new contract soon.

Every Friday through the Super Bowl, David Fleming will check in with 12 things about the NFL. Check out 12 things that would surprise him about the NFC here.

I'd be surprised if …

1. … there's a bigger issue facing any team headed into camp this week than the Ravens and six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed being at odds. I still think the Ravens physical play makes them the most likely team to challenge Rex Ryan's bullies in New York for AFC supremacy. But, right now? This team is a bit of a mess.

They're starting camp with so many players on the active PUP list (10) that Ravens camp could be mistaken for a kennel. One draft pick, Sergio Kindle, will miss camp with a fractured skull after falling down stairs and another, Terrence Cody, looks to be pushing four bills and unable to run 150 yards. Now they're facing a season without starting CB Domonique Foxworth, who tore his ACL on Wednesday.

(The good news? Joe Flacco and the offense look scary good, so maybe this is the year Baltimore becomes an offensive-oriented team. Or not.)

By far, the scariest prospect has to be the thought of facing an early-season schedule that includes three divisional games and three playoff teams without Reed, the heart and soul of the defense. Yes, I know, Ray Lewis is an awesome dancer and talker of trash and still a force on the field, but the quieter Reed is every bit the leader and long ago passed Lewis in strategic importance on the field. (Put it this way: With the way Reed reads offenses and the amount of ground he can cover, it's like the Ravens get a head start and an extra man on defense on every down.)