As Ed Reed and Ray Lewis pushed themselves through their offseason training sessions last year, the Baltimore Ravens teammates would use thoughts of going to the Super Bowl and being named the NFL's defensive player of the year as motivation.
While the workouts didn't result in a playoff berth, they helped Reed have a dominant season and earn the Associated Press defensive player of the year award yesterday. He succeeds Lewis, the all-pro linebacker who won the award last season.
The Ravens' Ed Reed wins The AP Defensive Player of the Year award, edging teammate Ray Lewis.
(Gail Burton - AP)
"The fact that me and Ray trained together, talked about it -- him being there for a long time and knowing that you can get to this level on discipline and focus on what you have to do, he pretty much walked me to it," Reed said during a conference call. "There are certain things he taught me over time. Last offseason, being able to work out with him and work together to try to achieve something as a team, for me to achieve the award and him to have done it already, it's truly an honor."
Reed is the third safety to be honored and the first since Seattle's Kenny Easley in 1984. He received 20 votes from a national panel of writers and broadcasters who cover professional football; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior finished second with 16 votes.
It has taken Reed only three seasons to become one of the Ravens' most indispensable players. His nine interceptions this season led the NFL and established a franchise record. He returned those picks for a total of 358 yards, which surpassed the totals for 26 teams and broke the 43-year-old league record (349 yards by San Diego's Charlie McNeil in 1961). Reed already has a team-record 21 interceptions in his career.
Reed made game-changing plays throughout the season. Against the Washington Redskins in October, he forced a fumble by quarterback Mark Brunell and returned the ball 22 yards for a touchdown that changed the course of what wound up being a 17-10 Baltimore victory. In a nationally televised game against Cleveland in November, Reed sealed the 27-13 win in the final seconds with an end zone interception that he returned an NFL-record 106 yards for a touchdown.
About the only thing Reed didn't do was lead the Ravens into the playoffs. Baltimore finished with a 9-7 record, and that disappointment -- not the possibility of being named the league's best defender -- has occupied his thoughts the past week.
"Outside of people mentioning [the award] to me, a lot of times I've been pushing it to the side and focusing on our season," Reed said. "The award is kind of like, you did what you did as an individual, but the team didn't do anything, so it's kind of down for the moment. Now that I've received the award, I recognize the blessing. But it's still a matter of what the team has to do in the future."