Michael Huff looking to make own legacy as Ed Reed’s replacement with Ravens

Just like anyone who slots into Ray Lewis’ middle linebacker spot with the Ravens next season, veteran safety Michael Huff will draw the comparisons as Ed Reed’s replacement.

Huff, 30, officially signed with Baltimore Thursday and met with the media for the first time since leaving the Oakland Raiders, with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career.

Huff hopes to make a name for himself rather than to be connected with Reed as a member of the Ravens.

“Obviously, Ed (is) one of the greatest free safeties to ever play this game. (He is a) first-ballot Hall of Famer, and I’ve said for me to come in here, I don’t really feel like I’m following his footsteps,” Huff said. “I’m more kind of starting my own legacy and kind of going in here to help the defense. Like I said, I’m going to go out there and play free safety, play strong safety, play corner if they need me to, play nickel if they need me to. I’m going to go out here and do whatever I can to help the defense and help us win.”

Huff does recognize that there’s something a little different about taking over Reed’s spot than if he had signed with a different team. But Huff seems to have Reed’s blessing, as the two have been talking for a little while and texted back and forth Wednesday night.

“It means a lot. He’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, free safety to ever play the game,” Huff said. “I talked to him last night, just told him that I’ll carry on his legacy, carry on the tradition of great safeties in Baltimore. I’m definitely going to go out there and hold up my end.”

Huff put together an impressive start to his career with the Raiders, accumulating 453 tackles, 11 interceptions, four forced fumbles and 5.5 sacks in 108 games (94 starts).

He had his best season in 2010, when he finished with 94 tackles, four sacks, and team highs of three interceptions and three forced fumbles. For that work, he was named a second-team All-Pro. Last season, Huff made 71 tackles and picked off two passes in 16 games, 14 of which were spent at cornerback because of an early season injury.

The Ravens believe they’re adding someone who will upgrade their defensive backfield in whatever role he plays.

“He’s just a tremendous player, a tremendous guy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He fits us really well both football-wise and technique-wise, the type of person he is, the type of family man he is. He’s going to enable us to keep doing the things on defense that we have been doing and even build on those things. I know (secondary coach Teryl Austin) has a lot of great plans for him in the back end, but you are talking about a great athlete - a guy who was a top-10 pick, a guy who has played corner, safety, played in the slot, free safety, strong safety. He has done it all, because he is smart.

“He is tough, and he knows how to play the game. We are just thrilled that he is here, thrilled that he is a Raven.”

Huff described himself as a versatile addition and someone who can play a number of positions.

“I’ll do whatever it takes for the team,” he said. “I played corner, free safety, strong safety, nickel, dime - I’ve kind of played it all in my career. I’m just one of those guys that will do whatever is best for the team and put the team first.”

Austin is excited about the attributes Huff brings to the defense.

“I think the thing that stands out is you look at a guy in the back end who has a lot of range. He is a good tackler coming out of the back end, and he’s durable,” Austin said. “He has played a lot. I think maybe in his seven years, he has missed maybe four games. That’s a testament to the way he is as a professional. I’ve heard really good things about him.

“Guys I know (who) have coached him have lots of good things to say about him, not only as a player but as a person. I think that’s important when you are coming in here, because there is a Raven way that we do things, and we think he will fit in that mold. I’m really excited to have him.

“Looking forward to adding him into the back end, so that as a defense, we can continue to be better - to be the best. That’s, I think, our goal. So when we sign guys, that is our goal. It’s not to fill anybody’s shoes, or to do anything like that, but, ‘Hey, can this guy help us be the best defense we can be?’ That’s what we did with Michael.”

In his seven years with the Raiders, Huff has never been a part of a winning team. Oakland went 8-8 in both 2010 and 2011, but never broke .500.

The Ravens haven’t had a losing mark since 2007. Huff, who also visited the Cowboys, said the opportunity to be a part of a culture and scheme like Baltimore’s appealed to him.

“At this point in my career, it’s not chasing money, it’s not chasing things like that. It’s chasing that Super Bowl ring,” he said. “I said I don’t think (of) any other place than to come here. Baltimore is that place. You want to come here and win a Super Bowl, then [this is] where you want to be.”

Now entering his eighth pro season, Huff will likely be relied upon for more than his on-field abilities.

With Reed and Bernard Pollard gone, the team will be employing a younger group of safeties around the newest Raven, and Huff knows what he’ll have to do.

“I’ll definitely (be a) mentor. It’s more than just on the field,” Huff said. “You’ve got to be a mentor off the field and just kind of teach the young guys how to be a pro, how to get better day in and day out. So I definitely want to be a mentor to the young guys.”