When the Baltimore Ravens' John Harbaugh was hired as head coach in January 2008, he said: "There are three important things in putting together a football team: No. 1 is the team, the second-most important thing is the team and the third-most important thing is the team."
Ed Reed, Pro Bowl safety and one of the most respected players in the locker room, is putting Harbaugh's mantra to the test by skipping the first day of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
To make matters worse, Harbaugh said Reed wasn't excused from the minicamp and hasn't heard from the eight-time Pro Bowl player. "I have not communicated with Ed, so I'm not sure what the situation is on that," Harbaugh said after Tuesday's practice.
I don't think this is a sign that Reed is contemplating retirement -- again. But this is still a big issue. Harbaugh has to fine Reed. He has to discipline Reed for breaking the rules.
This is the toughest predicament that Harbaugh has faced in his four-plus years as Ravens coach. He doesn't want to upset one of the most respected players in the locker room. He doesn't want to alienate Reed when he's heading into the final year of his contract.
But, if this is about team and no player is above another, Harbaugh can't give Reed a pass on this. Under the collective bargaining agreement, Harbaugh can fine Reed up to $72,000 ($63,000 for missing the mandatory three-day minicamp and another $9,000 for not taking a physical before the workout) for blowing off the camp that everyone under contract is required to attend.
Some have speculated that this is an indication that Reed might retire. He's never missed a mandatory camp in the past. But inside linebacker Ray Lewis said that's not the case and told reporters that too much is being made of Reed's absence. He said Reed has a family issue and will report to training camp. If this is true, Reed should've picked up the phone and called Harbaugh. Not doing so is wrong, and Harbaugh can't set such a prescedent.
Players are required to attend a three-day minicamp during a six-month offseason. Reed should be able to make time for three practices over a 180-day period to be with his team. His absence looks even worse when he is holding a two-day football camp three miles from Ravens headquarters next month.
This comes during the same offseason in which the Ravens didn't go after Terrell Suggs' salary despite the linebacker getting hurt away from team facilities. The Ravens were right in doing so because Suggs' issue was the result of an accident. Reed's no-show is not accidental.
Some will say Reed doesn't need to be at this minicamp because of his experience. But the Ravens have a new defensive coordinator, and Reed doesn't have a long history with the other starters in the secondary (Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Bernard Pollard). This camp can give Reed some familiarity with the new calls on defense and build chemistry before training camp in late July.
Reed should be at this mandatory minicamp. But he's not, and Harbaugh needs to do something about it.