Ravens kick returner David Reed returned to practice this week more than 10 months after tearing an ACL, giving the team an emotional lift and also starting the clock on a roster decision.
Reed, who began the season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list while recovering from knee surgery, can practice for up to three weeks, after which the team must either add him to the active roster, cut him, or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
“They got a tough decision," Reed said. "I’m feeling really good. I feel better than I did last year, so whatever happens, happens."
Reed was jumpy at his locker on Wednesday, saying he couldn't wait to put on shoulder pads again.
"I'm ready to go," Reed said before Wednesday's practice, which was to be his first since he crumpled to the ground against Cleveland on Christmas Eve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“I’m going to do as much as I can. I’m going to try to do everything, until they pull me out.”
Reed said his rehab had plenty of ups and downs, and he drew motivation from cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was recoving from ACL surgery when Reed was a rookie. (Now Webb is doing it all over again.)
"That’s what I used to keep in the back of my head every day," Reed said, " ‘I gotta get back to where Webb was. If Webb can do it, I can do it.’”
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said at his weekly session with the media on Thursday that "we were all uplifted" by Reed's return to the practice field.
"We all know how much David enjoys football," Rosburg said. "He got an ovation at the meeting, and it was exciting for everybody to see David back out here."
Reed, a fifth-round draft pick out of Utah in 2010, was the Ravens starting kick returner last year before losing the job for about a month after fumbling three times in a span of two games. He also saw limited action at wide receiver last season but has no NFL receptions.
Reed finished last season with an average of 29.7 yards on 18 kickoff returns. As a rookie, he led the league with 29.3 yards a return, including a 103-yard touchdown against Houston.
But will he get that role back?
Jacoby Jones, who took over the kick return duties from rookie Deonte Thompson, is averaging 33.5 yards on 13 returns, including a franchise-record 108-yard touchdown.
"Of course I want to be back there (returning kicks)," Reed said, "but Jacoby’s been doing a great job at it, and I can’t take nothing away from him. Hopefully I can just come in and add on to that and maybe we can both do it.”