What's buzzing:

Ravens' Ed Reed reflects contradictions of NFL's head injury issues

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

NEW ORLEANS – Ed Reed is 34 now and he hopes that his tendency of late to forget simple things, or get confused about something easy, is just a sign of middle age approaching.

"Who [doesn't] wake up and forget things?" the Baltimore Ravens' future Hall of Fame safety said with a wistful laugh.

Deep down, though, he fears something else is at work. The man plays football for a living and he plays it violently, all those collisions over the middle, all those bone-jarring tackles. He's had just three diagnosed concussions he said, although he acknowledged there "may be more that you don't really know about."

View gallery

.

Through the aches and pains, Ed Reed has become one of the best safeties of his generation. (USA Today Sports) …

And so Reed offers this startling revelation: He isn't just fearful that he may one day suffer from brain injuries caused by football, he thinks he's already dealing with them.

"I think some things I go through [right now] are football related," Reed said Wednesday. "There's been some thing that honestly put up a flag. Just stuff that I know, stuff that I know I've been through, minor [things where I said,] 'Oh, my, this might be because I've been playing football so long.'

"I'm sure there is going to be something related to football."

[Related: Ray Lewis 'agitated' over report tying him to deer-antler spray]

Across New Orleans this week in the run-up to Super Bowl XLVII, it seems every conversation winds up on head injuries. The league, from executives to coaches to players, is concerned. No one is denying the threat is real. No one has a solution either.

Players can only sit and wonder if they'll be the lucky ones that survive the game with their health intact. And they can only attempt to push aside the terror that they face a life incapacitated with ALS or some other horror story that some of their predecessors are going through. No one wants to be featured on one of those "HBO Real Sports" segments.

It's an enormous game of roulette and no one has any idea what's coming. To listen to Reed discuss his past, present and uncertain future is to hear a man face reality while still in denial, a man who is both concerned and hopeful, a man too smart and articulate to pass on honestly discussing the issue, a man trying to play mind games on himself to make his continued play seem like the proper choice.

"None of us know our time," he notes. "None of us know how we are going to go. None of us know when that hour is going to come and how it is going to come to us."

That rationalization gets him on the field, it doesn't silence his concerns.

"I [fear] for my family," Reed acknowledged. "For my family to have to go through that if it happens, God forbid. But any family that has to go through that. Any player that ever played in this league would hate that for their family to go through that."

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Christian Okoye laments end of ground-and-pound days in NFL]

This isn't just outside groups or plaintiff's lawyers or even old players talking now. It's guys such as Reed, part of the current, active heart and soul of the league. He's a mess of contradictions. They all are.

Reed cheered on President Obama, who said if he had a son he might not let him play football. Yet in the next breath Reed said his son will be allowed to play if he wants, but only after he's provided proper information.

View gallery

.

Ed Reed addresses Ravens fans at a send-off rally on Monday before the team went to New Orleans. (AP)

"We have to make sure we are educating our kids and people about what is going on vs. just saying, 'don't do this' or 'don't do that.' "

Some players think the game is in trouble. Others figure it'll go on forever. Back and forth it goes during Super Bowl week, from media conferences to private moments. It's a strange moment for the sport.

To Reed, this is the deal he made, the life he chose and perhaps that's where football will end up. At this stage, no one can start – or continue – playing the game without the knowledge that brain injuries are real and irreversible. He says he plays because it's what makes him whole. There's no other path for him. Everyone close to him understands that.

"[My family] always supports me, and they know if I can walk and talk and run, I'll be playing football," he said. "The decision is solely mine."

Reed wants no tears shed. He knows the risks. He sees the potential trouble. He plays. He thinks the sport is a dangerous occupation that the participants enter with eyes wide open. It's not the same as other worker safety situations, from coal mines to factory work.

This is truly an elective path.

"I signed up for this," Reed said. "I knew it was a contact sport. I know there's going to be pain and ailments and injuries. Do I want that to affect my [life]? No. But do I know it's going to affect it? Yes."

[Related: Marshall Faulk feels cheated over Spygate]

That's the sad, sobering reality. You wonder sometimes if you're talking to ghosts.

Here's a legend nearing the end of his career, seeking his first world championship, at the pinnacle of his long, hard fought and glorious run and he's forced to block out the moments when he fears that those recurring memory lapses aren't just the possible harbinger of something to come, but something sinister that is already here.

Other popular Super Bowl content on Yahoo! Sports:
Randy Moss won't apologize for best-of-all-time boast
Colin Kaepernick's movie choices show kid at heart
Blocked punt is greatest moment in New Orleans sports history

View Comments (90)
  • Former White Sox pitcher Billy Pierce dies at 88

    Former White Sox pitcher Billy Pierce dies at 88

    Billy Pierce, a seven-time All-Star pitcher who played in two World Series and spent most of his 18 years in the majors with the Chicago White Sox, died Friday. Pierce died after a battle with gall bladder cancer, said his family and the White Sox. … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 minutes 34 seconds ago
  • Cubs acquire reliever Hunter from Orioles for Lake

    The Chicago Cubs got some help for their bullpen Friday, acquiring Tommy Hunter from the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Junior Lake. Hunter was 2 -2 with a 3.63 ERA in 39 appearances for Baltimore this season. The 29-year-old right-hander is … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 minutes 54 seconds ago
  • Defendant in FIFA case appears in US court

    Defendant in FIFA case appears in US court

    An Argentinian sports marketing executive pleaded not guilty in a U.S. court Friday in the massive racketeering and bribery case that has scandalized international soccer. Alejandro Burzaco became the third of 14 defendants charged in the FIFI … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 minutes ago
  • No surprise: Jameis Winston named Buccaneers starting QB

    No surprise: Jameis Winston named Buccaneers starting QB

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are turning over their offense to Jameis Winston. Coach Lovie Smith officially named the first overall pick in the NFL draft his starting quarterback on Friday, saying the 2013 Heisman Trophy is ready for the role. Winston … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 minutes ago
  • Indians send reliever Rzepczynski to Padres

    CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Indians have made their third trade this week, sending left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Abraham Almonte. … More »

    AP - Sports - 9 minutes ago