"I was pretty sure I was going to keep playing; I was feeling good about where I was at," Reed told ESPN. "But then I had some lingering effects and sought out professional help to get diagnosed. They told me it was not a good idea to keep playing. I agreed with them."
Reed visited Orlando's Plasticity Center in late winter for a brain scan. He said based on the results it was recommended he retire. Reed said it took him a while to make the decision.
"Before when I had a concussion I would feel better afterwards and I wouldn't have lingering effects," Reed said. "If I didn't have any symptoms I would have kept playing," he said. "I'm OK with it because I know the reason why I'm making the choice is for family and my children, so I can be there for them. It's just time."
Reed, 30, played seven seasons with Washington and spent last year with San Francisco, catching 355 passes with 28 touchdowns in a career often slowed by injuries. He played 10 games with the 49ers last season, catching 26 passes.
When healthy, Reed scared opposing defenses because of his quickness to beat one-on-one matchups with linebackers and his size (6-foot-2, 242 pounds) to beat safeties. It's why, in 2015, Reed caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns and was a key reason Washington won the NFC East. He made his lone Pro Bowl appearance after the following season.
But injuries limited Reed throughout his career, as he never played in more than 14 games in a season and three times played in 10 or fewer. He suffered at least seven documented concussions and dealt with soft-tissue injuries as well as knee and toe issues. Fractures in his big toes led to him needing surgery and affected his game over multiple seasons.
Reed said he's getting involved in the cannabis industry after relying on marijuana to help with his injuries. He said he already owns some assets in the industry, but is seeking partners.
"I always knew the dangers of opioids," Reed said. "I chose to lean on cannabis for a lot of that pain."
In 2019, Reed looked to have regained his game with a strong training camp. Reed said at the time he felt he was back to his old self, and numerous teammates and coaches agreed.
But in the third preseason game, Atlanta safety Keanu Neal drilled Reed on a pass that resulted in the tight end having another concussion. Neal was fined $28,075 for the hit. Reed tried to return but never played in a game that season and signed with the 49ers in the offseason. Reed said he still felt the effects of that hit during the 2020 season.
Reed entered the University of Florida as a quarterback, but moved to tight end after one season. He played well enough for Washington to draft him in the third round in 2013.