Throughout Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's tenure with the Patriots, there likely hasn't been an opposing player who has received more adulation from members of the organization than former Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Over the years as New England and Baltimore regularly squared off in high-leverage regular-season games or playoff matchups, the week of press conferences leading up to those confrontations always featured some ode to Reed. Either Belichick or Brady, and usually both, often had something to say about the then-ageless safety with the incredibly rare ability to digest formations, anticipate plays, and attack footballs with a style that others didn't dare try to replicate.
Reed is out of the game for now -- a free agent, he'll turn 36 in September -- but he's still revered in the Gillette Stadium hallways.
That's why when Brady went on WEEI for his regularly-scheduled interview with the Dennis and Callahan Show and compared his new teammate Darrelle Revis to Reed, it was the highest of praise.
"It's been so fun to go against him because he challenges every throw, he challenges every play," Brady said. "He's just so smart, so instinctive. I played against Ed Reed for a long time. He played the deep middle of the field, but sometimes he'd make tackles three yards from the line of scrimmage when his responsibility was 40 yards down the field. And you'd say 'God, how did he know that the team was running a shallow cross?' He just knew. He saw something, and that freedom of his deep-field responsibility allowed him to just play with confidence that the ball would just be in a certain spot.
"That's a lot how Revis . . . You don't know what he sees or what he knows, but he's always in the right place. He's got incredible instincts for a corner. Sometimes he runs the route for the receivers. He just . . He's got great intuition. He obviously sees everything on the field. He sees the quarterback, he sees the split of the receiver, he sees the eyes of the receiver, he sees the technique of the receiver coming off the line of scrimmage. It's probably hard for him to explain what he sees at times, he just sees everything. And he makes great breaks on the ball, and that's what makes great defensive players, the anticipation to play with that."
Though Reed and Revis play different positions on the defensive side of the ball, defenders like them with the hard-to-measure traits of instinct and anticipation have given Brady and the Patriots offense fits over the years.
For the Ravens, it was more than just Reed.
"You know Ray Lewis was another one where when you would play-action, and he wouldn't even step toward the line of scrimmage," Brady said. "He would just drop back to into his zone. And when you would run the ball, he'd be downhill faster than anybody. To recognize plays and combinations is really a great skill in the instincts for particular players.
"Revis definitely got all those traits. And I knew that when I played against him with the Jets. He was so good for them, and he eliminates a big part of the field for a particular offense. You always have to know what you're doing when you throw the ball into his area because you know he's always going to be right there closing on the ball."
Brady has seemingly tested himself against Revis more and more as camp has worn on, and he completed two balls -- one to Julian Edelman and one to Kenbrell Thompkins -- on Revis in 11-on-11 drills on Sunday.
Brady can call the challenge "fun" now because it's no longer occurring on Sundays. When it was, it's interesting to note, and not at all surprising, that Brady had Revis in a class with an all-time great opponent like Reed.