Veteran free safety Ed Reed wore a gray suit Monday night along with a wide grin as he embraced his first hours back in Louisiana after touching down in New Orleans.From chowing down on charbroiled oysters with his teammates at the popular New Orleans restaurant, Dragos, to playfully tapping reporters on the arm as he worked the crowd, the Louisiana native soaked up every moment upon arrival for Super Bowl XLVII.
"I can't explain it, man," said Reed, who plans to visit his family Tuesday in St. Rose, La., for some Cajun cooking. "This is awesome, man. To come home to be in Louisiana in front of the home crowd playing here for the Super Bowl, I'm really speechless.
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"Everything I've been through to get to this point, everything we've been through as a team, it's just awesome. I'm just trying to enjoy it and not hold anything in, any emotions. To be playing in my first Super Bowl in New Orleans, it's special."
Reed reiterated that he has no plans to retire after stating late last week that he has more football left in him.
"That question was asked a couple of days back about this being my last ride," Reed said. "I'm not focused on that right now."
Although this would seem like a perfect ending to an accomplished career, Reed has never embraced a conventional approach.
"There can’t be no talk about us both because he’s trying to get me to come back," said Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who is retiring following the Super Bowl. "Ed is going to do what Ed is going to do. I think both of our paths are totally different.
"Our courses are totally different. Same mindset, but totally different paths. He’ll make his decision whenever he makes his decision. Like I told him, if he was going to go out, what better way to go out than feeling that confetti as world champions."
As Lewis, 37, prepares to walk away from the game, Reed, 34, wants to send his friend and mentor out as a victor Sunday night hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy.
"Of course, we want to send him off the right way," Reed said. "I'm not about to say this is my last game and have everybody join in with that. If that's what it takes to get the guys pumped, though. Nah, man, it's not about me."
This isn't Reed's first Super Bowl experience in New Orleans.
Back in 1997 as a high school football standout at nearby Destrehan High School in St. Rose, La., outside of New Orleans, Reed won a regional Punt, Pass and Kick competition. That earned him the right to attend Super Bowl Media Day as the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots prepared for a game ultimately won by the Packers."It was awesome," said Reed, who ran the Wing-T offense as a high school quarterback before signing with the University of Miami to play safety. "I still have those visions."
Reed acknowledged that the game of football has taken a grueling toll on his body.
He's been dealing with a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder for several seasons, affecting his durability and tackling. This season, he played through a torn shoulder labrum.
"When I said before I'm thinking about retiring, that's me assessing my body physically," Reed said. "I've been playing with the nerve impingement for the past six, seven years. I know that's affecting me. I tore my shoulder labrum early in the year. That's still affecting me ergonomically. The game takes a toll on your body."
In January of 2011 prior to the Ravens' playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Reed's brother, Brian Reed, died after jumping into the Mississippi River while trying to elude police following a car chase. Brian Reed had a history of mental illness, according to his family.
"He's already proud of me," Reed said when asked about his late brother. "He's looking down on me right now. He's here with me."