As cameramen in the usually docile Houston media jostle to get in position . . . to film Ed Reed pull up to an otherwise empty green field in a golf cart, one thing instantly becomes clear. The Houston Texans suddenly have a little extra dash of legitimate star power.
Oh, it may not be Tim Tebow sized. It's not going to threaten to cast a giant, non-playing shadow over everything else the Texans do. But it's there.
Ed Reed carries himself like the best safety in the history of the NFL. That's apparent whether Reed is at the White House doing his own friendly version of verbal jousting with the leader of the free world or at the Texans training facility on the first day of a rather low-key mandatory mini camp this mid June Tuesday.
"My goal is New York. If you really want to know."
"He's not giving me grief," Reed says of his already sports infamous meeting with Obama. ". . .That's the president talking to you."
"You're looking like an old man," Obama kidded the graying 34-year-old Reed in remarks picked up by TV cameras at the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl winning South Lawn visit. What wasn't picked up was Reed's equally feisty remarks back.
"I just told him, 'You know what your job can do to you?' " Obama — who has more than a little on-the-job gray himself — just laughed and agreed with Reed. President or Pro Bowl safety? It turns out neither is for the meek of heart — or for those looking to keep their natural hair color.
"I've been having the gray hairs ever since high school," Reed says. "It's something I embrace . . . I don't cut my hair. I'm not putting the Just For Men in."
The Texans' big free agent hope happens to be wearing a new white Texans hat over his increasingly famous locks on this day. But he'll let the gray fly soon.
Reed chalks up his gray hair to trying to look out for others with his youth foundation. He's certainly not going to link it to any stress over his recovery from hip surgery. In his first time in front of the Houston media since his torn labrum became a controversial story, Reed answered every question while showing how absurd this "issue" truly is.
Is everyone in Houston really freaking about when Ed Reed comes back? The Texans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If Gary Kubiak's team truly desperately needs Ed Reed in that Week One Monday nighter against San Diego, then there are a lot more problems than a future Hall of Famer's hip.
Ed Reed's True Time
The Texans didn't drop $15 million on Ed Reed in free agency to win September. Or October. Or even November.
Houston's shown it can thrive in those months. Ed Reed is a win when it counts most move. It's all about the end of the season, all about making a game-changing play or three in the pressurized glare of the NFL playoffs.
"At the end of the day, the smartest thing to do is to be ready when it really counts," Reed says. "Late in the year, going into the playoffs, pushing for the Super Bowl . . ."
"I've been having the gray hairs ever since high school. It's something I embrace . . . I'm not putting the Just For Men in."
If you're a Texans fan, do you really care if Reed pulled a "fast one" over on the Texans or not? Who cares if he suspected or thought he might need surgery farther back than he now says? It's not your money.
Reed is already calling Texans owner Bob McNair, "Mr. Bob" — a moniker that you have to hope sticks. McNair himself makes a point of staying after practice on his day, seemingly so he can have a moment with Reed. And there's The Old Man and Mr. Bob embracing and sharing a few words.
"Even when you see Mr. Bob out there, it’s about being smart and the longevity," Reed grins. ". . . the season's a grind, man."
McNair still seems mighty pumped to have Ed Reed in the organization. Why are so many others sweating it?
In a way, this shows how unaccustomed Houston football fans are to having a true title caliber team. Instead of celebrating what Reed should be able to do when it matters most, the talk show airwaves and comment boards fill with doom and gloom about Reed needing to recover in time for the first week of the regular season. Or even training camp.
Training camp. We're talking about training camp.
Reed is already calling Texans owner Bob McNair, "Mr. Bob" — a moniker that you have to hope sticks.
Ed Reed missing training camp — and yes, several weeks of the regular season too — would likely turn out to be a bonus that pays off big in the playoffs. If anything, he should let his recovery linger.
This isn't Tim Dobbins, a bit player with a chance to take on a much larger role, skipping out on OTAs in order to renovate his house (Dobbins' remark about "trying to learn another skill" instead of giving his full attention to his current $905,000-a-year job is one of the more remarkable athlete quotes in recent memory).
This is Ed Reed, one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game.
Ed Reed knows what he's doing. He's earned a little latitude.
Reed now traces his torn labrum back to New England quarterback Tom Brady kicking him in the AFC Championship Game, a move that cost Brady $25,000 grand and one Reed says the Golden Boy called to apologize for. Still, Reed helped win the big game for Baltimore through that — and more.
"Even then I had two MCL sprains, a second degree one (happened) in the left (knee) in the Super Bowl, in the first quarter, and I played through that," Reed says. "If you’ve got any questions about my heart and how I play and how I work, that should answer them."
Ed Reed's history screams out one thing: He'll be there for the Texans when it counts most. He'll deliver on the promise he made to Mr. Bob.
"My goal is NewYork," Reed says emphatically when pressed, citing the site of this season's sure-to-be-historic cold weather Super Bowl. "If you really want to know.
"That's the goal at the end of the day. It's not San Diego. It's not Baltimore. It's not New England. It's New York and I'm talking about the Super Bowl."
And you're worried about this guy? Please.