Ed Reed is making the wrong decision

BALTIMORE -- It seemed like old times at Sunday's charity softball game at M&T Bank Stadium, where former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed heard the familiar chorus of "Reeed" from fans and then sang his beloved rendition of "Two Tickets to Paradise."

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Reed to announce his retirement. He had a shot to call it quits on the field where he set two NFL records for interception returns, picked off 35 passes and captured the hearts of football fans.

Instead, Reed turned out to be another NFL great who is hanging on for too long.

"I know that I can still play," Reed said. "It's just a matter of the right fit. If not, you guys probably never see me again. Ed Reed and Barry Sanders, they did it their way."

Memo to Reed: Sanders retired at the peak of his career. Reed is more like Jerry Rice or Deion Sanders, two of the best at their positions who couldn't accept that it was time to retire.

He will long be remembered as the best ball hawk in NFL history, a playmaker who struck fear in the best quarterbacks of this generation. I never saw a player who could turn a turnover on one end of the field into a game-changing touchdown as frequently as Reed.

But he isn't that player anymore. He wasn't close to being that in 2012 or 2013. For a player with such an outstanding football IQ, Reed just can't figure out what many others have already concluded: He needs to walk away from the game.

Reed didn't get the hint when the Ravens let him walk away in free agency. He didn't get the hint when the Houston Texans benched him and then cut him midway through last season. And he didn't get the hint when -- as a member of the New York Jets -- he misplayed the ball on Joe Flacco's 66-yard touchdown bomb in Baltimore last year.

The one realization that Reed has apparently made is he can't play for a full season. That's why he talked about joining a team during the season.

"I'm getting myself back to where there's not questions on my part," Reed said. "I know you guys [the media] may question, but I'm not really worried about that. It's about how I feel."

There's no guarantee that another team will want Reed. He'll turn 36 in September, and it was apparent that he lost a step last season. For Reed's sake, let's hope no team signs him. Nothing can diminish Reed's legacy, but playing another year could lead to more embarrassing moments (and more big-play touchdowns being scored against him).

If Reed does sign somewhere in 2014, he'll be on his fourth NFL team, but his football home will always be Baltimore. On Sunday, Reed signed hundreds of autographs. He even played an impromptu game of toss with one fan in the stands.

While Reed missed the chance to be a "Raven for life" like Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, it's clear that this city still embraces him.

"Just walking into the locker room and talking to coach [John Harbaugh before the game], it definitely brings back memories," Reed said. "Anytime I come into Baltimore, it brings back memories."

Reed said he won't make any formal retirement announcement if he doesn't sign with a team this year. He talked about simply disappearing from the game.

This is where he is wrong again. When he finally decides to call it quits, Reed should sign a one-day contract with the Ravens and come back to the place where he made so many memories.

Reed needs to take one more bow at M&T Bank Stadium. He may regret not doing so on Sunday.