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Ex-Ravens safety Ed Reed announces retirement

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Four weeks after Troy Polamalu retired, his direct competition for greatest safety of the 21st century followed suit.

Former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed announced his retirement on Wednesday.

Take a look back at Ed Reed's career.

A nine-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro, Reed last played for the New York Jets late in the 2013 season.

Regarded by NFL foes as a playmaker with ball-hawking skills and instincts of the highest caliber, Reed holds the record for most interception return yards (1,590) in NFL history. His nine career postseason picks are also tied for the most ever.

Reed's 64 interceptions rank sixth all-time, though every player ahead of him not only enjoyed a longer career but also played in eras which featured quarterbacks with significantly higher interception rates.

Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis provided the backbone and set the tone for a smothering Baltimore defense that had the Ravens in annual playoff contention, bridging the gap from the franchise's first Super Bowl title in 2001 to its second in 2013.

Playing against Reed was like trying to bust a ghost.

It's a testament to his greatness that the New England Patriots, often the Ravens' chief competition in the AFC playoffs, held Reed in the highest regard.

Quarterback Tom Brady wore a wristband reminding him to find Reed's No. 20 jersey on every play.

Coach Bill Belichick considered Reed the best free safety he had seen in 40 years of pro football.

"Can't say I've ever coached against anybody better than Ed Reed in the secondary," Belichick said in 2012.

One of the most vivid scenes from NFL Network's A Football Life series features an awestruck Belichick and Brady in the coach's office, outlining exactly what constitutes Reed's greatness.

"Everything he does, he does at an exceptional level," Belichick tells Brady. "I mean it's just so obvious when he's reading the quarterback. Those receivers will run right past him, and he never flinches. He doesn't even acknowledge them. ... Unbelievable."

Who better to assess Reed's place in the safety hierarchy than Belichick, a bipedal football encyclopedia and one of the greatest coaches and innovators in NFL history?

Reed redefined the safety position at the highest level of the game. There's a gold jacket waiting for him in Canton.

It would be fitting if he walks into the Hall of Fame ceremony alongside Polamalu in five years.

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