WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) -Even if he wasn't wearing a bright red jersey, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed would be easy to spot on the practice field at training camp.
Just follow the path of the football.
``I hate Ed Reed because he's so good,'' said Derrick Mason, who played with Tennessee before joining the Ravens in 2005. ``When I used to play against him, you just couldn't throw the ball in the middle of the field because he was always around it. Now that I'm playing with him, it's the same thing in practice.''
Reed is nursing a tender left shoulder, so his red No. 20 jersey cautioned his teammates to avoid full contact. Amid a sea of players wearing purple and white, Reed and Baltimore's three quarterbacks were impossible to overlook during Monday's morning practice.
``I played quarterback in high school,'' Reed said with a grin, ``so if they need me to go over there with those guys, I can.''
Reed has proven to be a capable playmaker at safety. A four-time Pro Bowler and 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, he has 34 interceptions in six years. He doesn't just pick 'em off and fall down either; the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder has returned three for touchdowns.
He's also scored on a fumble return, has blocked four punts (returning three for scores) and last season found a new way into the end zone - on a 63-yard punt return.
At practice Monday, Reed was running full speed, knocking away passes and bumping receivers as if it was the middle of the regular season. That's just the way he plays, even in August and at less than 100 percent.
``Everybody always tells me, you better watch your back cause Ed will take your candy,'' Ravens cornerback Frank Walker said. ``Ed can sneak up you. We were out there today and my man was on a comeback (pattern). I'm breaking up on the ball and I see Ed fly by. 'Where you come from, man?' He's everywhere. I always heard stories about how Ed Reed makes plays, and now I'm out here witnessing it.''
Reed hasn't missed a game in the past two years and has missed only seven in six years - six of them in 2005 (ankle). But he expressed serious concern over the shoulder injury that kept him from practicing until last weekend.
``It's day to day right now. I can't really explain it to this point because I'm still researching it myself,'' he said. ``I figure it might be all right. If not, we'll deal with it then.''
Asked if he expected to be in the Baltimore secondary for the Sept. 7 opener against Cincinnati, Reed responded, ``We'll see.''
Clearly, the Ravens' defense wouldn't be the same without him. Because Reed is so fast and aware on the field, he plays the free safety position with his own style.
``Having coached the secondary, you have a good idea of the picture you look for back there,'' first-year head coach John Harbaugh said. ``Ed is good enough to change the picture just a little bit. He doesn't have to be quite as deep, or quite as wide or quite as tight as another guy to still be in position to make the play. You see why he's made so many plays over the years: by baiting quarterbacks a little bit. He's got a real knack for that.''
Said Mason: ``He is the best free safety in the game, hands down. There's nobody better than him. Nobody roams the field better than him, nobody catches the ball better in that back end.''
Reed turns 30 next month, and concedes that he might not be as fast as when he was a rookie. But his time in the 40-yard dash has nothing to do with all the film he watches before games, or the knowledge he's gained while playing 90 NFL games.
``The experience is there,'' Reed said. ``As we get older, the quickness tends to slow down. But I think I'm a lot better than I was at the beginning of my career, mentally. The quickness is up to par, but I still have a lot of work to do.''
Notes: RB Willis McGahee is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Miami this week and will miss Saturday's home preseason game against Minnesota. But Harbaugh expects him to be ready for the season opener. ``We're going to go in there and scope it and clean it out, just to make sure he's ready by opening day and make sure we know exactly what's going on in there,'' Harbaugh said. ``We're confident without the scope he would have been ready; we just feel like this is kind of a cautionary procedure (to) make sure we're right. ... The Ravens placed LB Prescott Burgess (wrist) and RB P.J. Daniels (shoulder) on injured reserve and released FB Justin Green.

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