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Reed signs with Rams, may return kicks in opener
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Just three days after returning kickoffs for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXXIV in 2005, J.R. Reed was in the hospital being told by doctors that he'd never play football again.
Reed suffered nerve damage to his left leg after his knee was impaled on a fence in a freak accident.
"I was on the top of the world, and then I went into depression," Reed said. "I thought I was done. I went back to school and got my degree. I had to work my way back up. Everybody told me that I couldn't do it. But, I couldn't take, 'No,' for an answer."
Reed, 24, was signed by the St. Louis Rams on Monday after passing a physical and what coach Scott Linehan called an extensive workout. There's a good chance he'll serve as the Rams' kickoff returner in their season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
"He's certainly got every reason in the world not to be able to pass the physical, but his will, and his want-to, and his desire impressed all of us," Linehan said of the 5-foot-11, 202-pound Reed.
Reed damaged the peroneal nerve that affects the use of the lower leg and foot attempting to jump over a chest-high fence with a gate near the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.
"It was a wrought iron fence with the spikes on the top," Reed said.
Reed missed his jump, got stuck on the gate and then threw himself backwards because he was afraid that if he fell forwards he'd break his knee.
The back of Reed's knee was impaled by one of the spikes, and the gate swung open with Reed hanging from it.
"I was swinging upside down on the gate, and blood was going everywhere," Reed said. "I reached down and pushed myself up, but I slid deeper because I slipped. I pushed up again and I got off. I tried to run, but I just fell. My foot wouldn't work."
Fortunately for Reed, a friend spotted him.
"There was nobody with me," Reed said. "I was right by my college, and one of my friends drove by and saw me. The hospital was only two minutes away."
It looked like Reed's promising career as NFL return man -- he averaged 23.1 yards per kickoff as rookie during the 2004 season -- was over.
"It regenerates, but it's not fast enough," Reed said of the nerve damage in his leg. " I have to work. I have pay the bills. I had to find another way. I wasn't going to just sit on the sideline waiting for it to come back."
With the help of a custom-made brace on his left foot and ankle, Reed earned a spot on the Eagles' 80-man roster this spring.
"They told me that I was done, and at first, I believed them," Reed said. "It wasn't until two weeks before minicamp this year that I said, 'Give me shot. I have a brace. You won't even notice that I am hurt."'
Without the brace, Reed walks with a slight limp. "I actually run a little better than I walk," he said.
The reason why Reed was jumping the fence is shrouded in mystery. One story has him running from dogs.
Reed hinted that the fence might have been around a swimming pool.
"Everybody has different things," Reed said. "Some people have me running from dogs, some people have me running from the cops, some people have me doing crazy stuff. Nobody knows the story. I don't tell the story. I was jumping a fence and I didn't make it."
Reed led the nation in kickoff returns with an average of 31.7 yards per return at South Florida in 2003. He also holds the Bulls' record for career interceptions with 18.
Reed, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles, said he feels like he's a better kickoff returner now than he was back in college.
"I'm better than I was in college," Reed said. "I know a lot more. In college, I was (getting by) on sheer talent. Now there's some knowledge to it. We'll see what happens when I get out there on Sunday."
Re: Reed signs with Rams, may return kicks in opener
Thats a freakish sounding injury. He is lucky to be able to walk again from the sound of it. Hopefully he will solidify our return game. I feel bad for Hagans and Pyatt though after probably expecting that spot would be for one of them. I hope this means Curtis won't be used in this capacity as he is too valuable as our #3 WR.