Reed ready for special contributions

Posted Sep 8, 2009

When his teammates and coaches gush about Nick Reed's “football intelligence,” it's not just a nice way of saying his mental approach helps compensate for his physical shortcomings.

Case in point: The rookie defensive end from the University of Oregon not only led the Seahawks in sacks during the preseason with 4½, he topped the entire National Football League.

But when asked about his role in Sunday's regular-season opener against the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field, Reed's response was limited to his special teams contributions.

Smart move, because as one of the league-high 11 defensive linemen retained by the Seahawks on their 53-man roster, the non-starters who are active Sunday will make their mark by covering kicks and blocking for their own returners.

Bring it on, said the look on Reed's face as he sat in front of his locker wearing - what else - an Oregon sweatshirt.

“Special teams is now a huge part of this, and that's what I'm kind of preparing to do,” said Reed, a steal of a seventh-round draft choice.

He moved onto the No. 1 kickoff unit in the second preseason game and then added kickoff return duties to his repertoire in the third preseason game.

“I knew that was important,” Reed said. “Because that's what's going to keep me around and keep me going.”

“The first thing I like is, he's a defensive end who can run enough to play on special teams,” special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said. “Where maybe being undersized as a defensive end hurts him some places on the defensive line - although I haven't noticed that yet - on special teams it actually helps him.”

Like most college “stars,” Reed saw limited - if any - special teams duty at Oregon. But he is embracing it.

“It's just competition, and it's competition that's fun,” he said. “You're going against people who are working really hard to stay on the team every week.

“This is all new for me, so it was a lot of work at the beginning. But I'm starting to kind of grasp it now and feel real comfortable with it.”

Reed's rise from “bubble” player to must-keep player might have caught some by surprise. After all, as DeHaven alluded to, he weighs only 247 pounds. But that didn't prevent him from collecting all those sacks, also leading the team with seven QB hurries and two forced fumbles and making 13 tackles to share the lead with backup middle linebacker David Hawthorne.

But former, and now current, teammate Max Unger is not among those who marveled at Reed's ability to consistently beat linemen who outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds.

That's because the team's second-round draft choice has caught this act before - at Oregon, where Reed also was considered too small to make such big-time contributions but ended up with a school-record 29½ sacks.

“Everyone's always told him he's too small to do anything,” said Unger, who will start at right guard against the Rams. “But look at him now. You just can't argue with his numbers.

“Watching him play at Oregon, and then what he's been able to do here this summer, it will be real interesting to see what happens. It really will.”

Unger will have a sideline seat to view just what Reed is able to do once the regular season starts. These two have been almost inseparable since their first minicamp after the draft. If you see one, you usually see the other. And if you don't, it's only because Unger plays offense and Reed plays defense.

“Max and I get along really well,” Reed said. “It's been great having him up here and kind of learning the ropes with him.”

Unger has his own feel-good story. He will be the first rookie lineman to start on opening day for the Seahawks since Steve Hutchinson in 2001.

The coaches talked about Unger being too good to keep out of the lineup since draft day, but he still had to go out and win the job.

“I didn't see this coming back at our first minicamp,” Unger said. “It will be interesting, because it will pick up a lot from here as far as it being the regular season and it's not the preseason anymore.

“This is 'The Show,' and I'm pretty excited.”

Especially because in this opener there will be two for “The Show,” as former Ducks-turned-Seahawks Reed and Unger get ready to do.