FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Ed Reed has posted a bounty on footballs.
The New York Jets safety badly wants one to come his way. So, he put them on notice with a T-shirt.
“WANTED,” reads the black shirt that features an Old West-style poster with a picture of a football in the middle, “In The Air Or On The Ground. $20,000.”
“It’s tough when the ball is not coming as close to you as it used to,” Reed said Thursday. “It’s a respect thing as well. It is what it is. We just have to make plays, find ways to make plays and when the opportunity presents itself, you have to be ready for it.”
Reed made up a few of the shirts, handing them out to a few of his teammates, including cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and rookie Dee Milliner. The whole bounty idea is a joke, of course.
“No, I’m not offering 20 grand for a turnover,” Reed said. “It’s a shirt, man.”
But the fact is: The Jets need to create turnovers in a big way. They have only seven takeaways on five interceptions and two recovered fumbles, which ties them with San Diego for the fewest in the league.
Reed wouldn’t mind doing his part in improving that total this Sunday. After all, Reed is going back to Baltimore. Again.
But this time, the veteran safety is facing his former teammates as a member of the Jets. Signed last week after being waived by Houston, Reed is expected to play quite a bit against the team he played for in his first 11 NFL seasons.
And wouldn’t it be pretty sweet to get his 62nd career interception and first this year on Sunday?
“Ask me that after the game when I pick one,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know. I really can’t describe that. I really can’t describe that moment right now. I just want to win a ballgame. I haven’t been on a team that’s won a football game since the Super Bowl, so this will be special.”
He’s played in eight games this season, including one with the Jets, and they’ve all been losses.
A month after the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in February, Reed signed with Houston and expected to be a big part of the Texans’ secondary. He had offseason hip surgery that slowed his transition into Wade Phillips’ defense, and he sat out the team’s first two games.
He made his Houston debut in Week 3 at Baltimore, returning to the city in which he became one of the NFL’s greatest players at his position. Reed cherished his time with the Ravens — unlike his few months with Houston, where he felt he wasn’t a good fit.
Reed’s role dwindled during the next several weeks, and he was eventually relegated to bench and then waived last week. He unloaded on the Texans and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on Wednesday, citing Phillips as the reason he’s no longer in Houston. Asked about his comments on Thursday, Reed said he was “done with that.”
Reed wasn’t overly nostalgic about his Ravens days, but he clearly still has some fondness for the team and its fans.
“It’s always special going back to Baltimore for me,” Reed said. “But it’s a football game. It’s a job that we are trying to get done and they’re trying to get done. It’s going to be fun.”
Reed had a mostly quiet game in his Jets debut, a 37-14 loss at Buffalo, in which he started three days after joining the team and had three tackles.
“He looks like the same guy to me, he really does,” defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. “I’m not worried about that part of it.”
Rex Ryan, who coached Reed for several years when they were together in Baltimore, said earlier in the week that he expects Reed to be “a major contributor” for the Jets the rest of the season. So, there’s a good chance the Ravens will get to see their former teammate trying to make plays against them all afternoon.
“This is déjà vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We have great respect for Ed. He’s a great player, and what a surprise to see him go there to the Jets. It’s a great reunion.”
The Jets will face Joe Flacco, who has already thrown a career-high 13 interceptions. It could be a good opportunity to make some plays for a secondary that has allowed 33 passes of at least 20 yards through 10 games.
Four of those came last week at Buffalo, even with Reed patrolling the field.
“I’m just going to go out and play the game,” Reed said. “I expect everything on Sunday. I always prepare that way.”
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