Late in the second quarter of Monday night's game against the Jaguars, Ed Reed went back to return a punt from Jacksonville's Nick Harris.
The punt bounced a few yards in front of Reed, and he started signaling for his teammates to clear out and back away from the ball. It looked like Reed would just let the ball roll dead and allow it to be downed by the Jaguars, but at the last second, Reed tried to pick the ball up off a hop. It initially looked like the ball bounced off Reed and was subsequently recovered by the Jaguars, but luckily for the Ravens, replays showed that Reed had actually missed the ball completely, and Baltimore retained possession.
It was a risky play to try and pick up the punt on a bounce with so many opposing players in the area, and it could have resulted in a turnover. But Reed said he's going to keep being aggressive when he's sent back to return punts, and that even if he had turned the ball over in that spot, it could have been a positive boost for his team.
"Once I realized that it kind of bounced away from everybody, if I get a good bounce, I was thinking it was going to bounce to me or away from me the way the ball was bouncing," Reed said. "If I get it, maybe we spark something. And if I don't get it and I fumble it, we still might spark something because we would understand as a defense and as a team, 'OK, now we need to make a play.'
"So like I told coach, I wouldn't change it. Obviously, you've got to be smart about the plays that you try to make, but like I said, I think it was just a spark either way it goes. It's good it didn't hit me, and I knew it didn't hit me. But like I said, if it hit me and I would have fumbled it and they would have gotten the ball or we would have gotten it, however it would have played out, I think it would have been a good spark on our side because we needed it."
I wonder if the coaching staff agrees with Reed's assessment that a turnover at the Baltimore 32-yard line late in the half would have been a positive thing and qualified as a "spark".
Reed has made countless plays when he's had the ball in his hands over his 10-year career. He's scored 13 touchdowns over that span (including playoffs) and is the only player in NFL history to have return touchdowns off a punt, blocked punt, interception and fumble recovery. Great things have been known to happen when Reed gets a hold of the ball.
But Reed also takes more risks than the average player when he's got the ball in his hands, be it lateraling to a teammate or just being looser with his ball control.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was asked this week about sending Reed back for punt returns in the future and his comfort level when Reed is back deep on special teams. Rosburg seemed to indicate that the team will continue to use Reed on punt returns going forward, essentially sacrificing a greater risk of a turnover for a greater chance of a big play.
"I have a lot of faith in Ed," Rosburg said. "Ed has demonstrated throughout his history - both in special teams and on defense - that he has some amazing ball skills, and he judges and analyzes football probably as good as anyone I've ever seen. So when Ed thinks he can make a play, we're all behind him.
"Obviously, ball security is primary, and he understands that. So, with that said, I mean that particular play was too close for comfort, but we have a lot of trust in Ed, and he's earned that."