By Jeff Zrebiec The Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — Ed Reed’s tackling has been scrutinized all season and now the NFL has weighed in.
The Ravens’ veteran free safety was suspended one game by the league Monday for repeated violations of the rule prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players. Reed has told the Ravens that he will appeal the suspension which would keep him out of Sunday’s contest against the San Diego Chargers.
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks imposed the one-game ban which came a day after Reed was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for his hit on wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the third quarter of the Ravens’ 13-10 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night.
It was Reed’s third violation in the past three seasons and his second this year.
“We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said. “We will continue to take the strongest possible action to deter these types of violations and protect our players.”
If his appeal is denied, Reed, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, would be barred from the Ravens’ practice facility until Nov. 26 and become the second player suspended this season for rules designed to protect the safety of players. Denver Broncos linebacker Joe Mays got a one-game ban for an illegal hit on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on Sept. 23.
The suspension also will cost Reed approximately $423,529, which is a one game check of his $7.2 million salary, and leave the Ravens without one more key piece of an injury-riddled secondary against a Chargers team that beat the Ravens, 34-14, at Qualcomm Stadium 11 months ago. Veteran James Ihedigbo would likely take Reed’s place in the starting lineup.
“I was very surprised. I didn’t see that one coming,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday . “None of those hits were intent to injure or harm in any way. I think when you look at the hits, that’s pretty obvious. We all know Ed. Ed respects the game, he respects his fellow players … He’s a good person, he’s got a good heart. He has a tremendous respect for the game and we stand behind him in that respect as a team and as an organization.”
Earlier this season, Reed was flagged for unnecessary roughness and fined $21,000 for striking New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch in the head and neck area in Week 3. Reed also was penalized for roughing the passer and fined $10,000 for unnecessarily striking New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees high in December 2010 .
The 2012 Schedule of Fines, which the league distributes to players, states that “players who were fined for violations in 2010 or 2011, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.”
Reed’s appeal will be heard by either Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, both former NFL coaches and the officers appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to decide appeals of on-field player discipline. Harbaugh said that the Ravens have been told that a ruling will likely be made by Wednesday so the team will know whether it will have the safety before it ramps up preparations for the Chargers.
As it is, the Ravens (8-2) already have lost top cornerback Lardarius Webb to a season-ending knee injury and his replacement, Jimmy Smith, is out for an extended period after having sports hernia surgery last week. They signed veteran cornerback Chris Johnson off the street last week and he saw action against the Steelers before being sidelined with a tweaked hamstring.
At the safety position, the Ravens put rookie Christian Thompson on season-ending injured reserve last week and replaced him with Anthony Levine who was on their practice squad. Levine played in his first NFL game Sunday, seeing action on special teams.
Ihedigbo, who started 12 games for the Patriots last season, has already been playing extensively while veteran Sean Considine could also see a bigger role opposite starting strong safety Bernard Pollard.
“If we don’t have Ed, that’s a blow,” Harbaugh said. “That will be something that will hurt us on defense and once again, somebody is going to have to step up and play really well.”
Reed, 34, is sixth on the team with 40 tackles and second with three interceptions. He’s dealt with neck and shoulder issues the past couple of seasons and he acknowledged earlier this year that he’s playing with a slight labrum tear in his shoulder.
That’s likely one of the reasons why he’s missed so many tackles this season including one two weeks ago when Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey bounced off Reed on his way to the end zone.
Reed wasn’t available for comment Monday , but he’s been highly critical of the NFL’s policy for fining players.
“That goes to show you about the integrity of the game and how it’s changed and how they’re making more decisions and fining us and taking away from football, so to say,” Reed said in late October after the Ravens were fined for not disclosing Reed’s shoulder injury on the team’s injury report. “They’re taking money and fining you for small stuff. Anything possible they can fine you for that takes away from them, the NFL, and we are the ones who really are the NFL, the players.”