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The Ravens have a couple of aging defensive stalwarts in safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis.
Luckily, both are coming back to play in 2011. But what about beyond that?
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gave an encouraging timetable on Reed. As far as Lewis, nobody knows after playing 15 years in the league.
“Ed’s still got plenty of good football left,” Harbaugh said during a Ravens Fan Forum with approximately 6,000 season ticket holders Wednesday night.
“I’ve talked to Ed a number of times this offseason. He feels he can play four or five more years.”
Reed, 32, missed the first six games of the 2010 regular season due to offseason hip surgery, but finished with one of the strongest campaigns of his career, including an NFL-high eight interceptions.
As opposed to the previous offseason, Reed didn’t speak of retirement after Baltimore’s playoff exit. He finished the year with the usual minor nicks and bruises, but nothing serious.
Then there’s the ageless Lewis. His bio says he’s 35 years old, but Lewis once again led the Ravens in tackles with 145 and was still a defensive playmaker.
He made two interceptions, including one to seal a win in Pittsburgh and another that he returned for a touchdown. Lewis forced two fumbles, including one in overtime against Buffalo, and recovered three.
Harbaugh gave a “resounding yes” that Lewis will be returning for the 2011 season. Beyond that, who knows?
“It’s going to be up to Ray,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see. He’s at that stage where he’s in uncharted territory. There’s no middle linebacker that’s played anywhere close as long as he’s played at the level he’s played. We do have to think about that.
“It’s tough because we’ve got great players still playing well. But you’ve always got to be thinking in football about getting younger. That’s just the way it works. It’s the cycle of football.”