OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ray Lewis has made it clear that he will be playing his last game Feb. 3 in Super Bowl XLVII. But what about Ed Reed, the Ravens' venerable safety? Could this be his finale after 11 seasons, a chance to cap a remarkable career by winning a Super Bowl near where he grew up?
Sorry, no dramatic exit here.
Asked Thursday how he'll feel about his career if the Ravens earn a ring in New Orleans, Reed smiled and said, "I will be playing next year, if that's what you're asking. So, next question."
All right, then.
All joking aside, Reed, 34, was the most definitive he has been about his plans. Even if he can't come to terms on a new contract with the Ravens, he said his career will move into a 12th season in 2013.
In the meantime, he's enjoying every moment as he prepares for his first trip to the Super Bowl.
"I'm speechless when it comes to talking about going home for this Super Bowl," he said. "It's amazing to me. For me to be in my 11th year, like Joe [Flacco] said, everybody doesn't get this chance to even play in the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl. It's just amazing to me. I'm just soaking it up, just really enjoying it, every minute, every second, being around my teammates."
Reed was born in St. Rose, La., and raised in Destrehan, both of which are about a 30-minute drive from New Orleans. He regularly returns to visit family. In January 2011, his brother, Brian Reed, died at 28 after jumping into the Mississippi River, reportedly to avoid police.
"You're going to bring me to tears," Reed told reporters after the Ravens clinched a Super Bowl berth Sunday with a win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. "My family has been going through some things. I just lost my brother two years ago."
No surprise that it has been such an emotional week for Reed. It's better than any of the individual honors he's earned in his storied career.
Reed has been one of the most decorated defensive backs in NFL history, winning The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004 and being selected for five All-Pro teams and nine Pro Bowls. But as far as he's concerned, nothing can match what this season has been about.
"This is the ultimate for your team. This is what you always wanted,'' he said. "This is why you prepare in the offseason. This is why you play the game -- to get to the ultimate dance. This is it.
"I told Bernard Pollard in the walk-through, 'I don't need anything else in life. Outside of my son graduating college, I'm good. I don't need anything else. I'm set. I'm good right now.' "
Well, not quite.
A win in New Orleans, and that's as good as it gets.