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BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed offered a pointed critique of the NFL on Sunday night, specifically about the way the league has been policing its defensive players.
Speaking after the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Reed said the NFL is turning into "powder puff" football and compared commissioner Roger Goodell to a president who doesn't have to answer to Congress and simply can pass whatever laws he pleases.
If they was really so concerned about the violence and the injuries and players getting hurt, answer this question for me: Why is there 'Thursday Night Football?' We played three games in 17 days (earlier this season)? Why?” -- Ravens safety Ed Reed
Reed had his recent one-game suspension for a series of illegal hits overturned on appeal, but the eight-time All-Pro player feels like the changes in the game are affecting the way he plays.
"It sucks, man," Reed said. "It sucks really bad. It affects me, man. I thought about it coming into this game, cause obviously it happened the last time we played."
Three weeks ago, when the Ravens and Steelers met at Heinz Field, Reed was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The NFL, saying it was taking into account Reed's history as a repeat offender under the league's "defenseless player" policy, said it was suspending him for Baltimore's game against the San Diego Chargers the following week, a decision that would have cost Reed $423,529 in salary.
Reed and the NFL Players Association appealed the league's decision, and arbiter Ted Cotrell overturned the suspension and reduced the fine to $50,000.
Reed, however, remains angry about the experience. In fact, he went so far as to say he feels like he was being punished for declining when the NFL asked him for a favor, although he wasn't specific about what he was asked to do.
"I feel like (the NFL) was trying to make an example out of a couple of things that happened a week before," Reed said. "I didn't want to do something for the NFL. A little bug told me there was something in the air about that, that they kind of had it out for me. That's bad. I was like, 'If you're not going to support me as a player in your league, in our league, why would you think I was going to come back and wear something on my shoulder pads to support you when you're just fining us?' "
Reed's not the only player to criticize the NFL and Goodell this season. Several Steelers have expressed frustration over what they perceive as Goodell abusing his power under the new collective bargaining agreement. Reed said Sunday he believes the league is trying to promote "powder puff" football.
"It's definitely changing the game," Reed said. "It's become an offensive league. They want more points. They want the physical play out of it, kind of. They want like powder puff to where you can just run around and score points 'cause that's going to attract the fans. I understand you want to make money, but bending the rules and making the game different, you know, it's only going to make the game worse."
Even though Reed won his appeal, he said he feels as though there aren't enough checks and balances in the system.
"All of the sudden the NFL is about to be sued for all the stuff that they haven't protected over the years and they haven't done," Reed said. "Now you want to take it out on us? Nah, take it out on yourself. It's easy for them to do the things they're doing, fining us and make us look bad, like we're the bad guy, when we're not."
Reed said he feels particularly let down by Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president who helped make the initial decision to fine and suspend him.
"That was crazy for the wording they were using, like 'malicious,' " Reed said, "(that) 'I'm a malicious player.' Ray Anderson talking about how I'm a dirty player. After 11 years now I'm a dirty? Serious man? ... It's definitely hurting the game, but they don't care so much about it 'cause they're going to continue to make their money. If they was really so concerned about the violence and the injuries and players getting hurt, answer this question for me: Why is there Thursday night football? We played three games in 17 days (earlier this season)? Why?"
Kevin Van Valkenburg is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.