It was a simple jump over a fence. The kind of jump that J.R. Reed had made so many times on a football field. Something went wrong though and that simple maneuver may have ruined J.R. Reed's football career. At minimum, it cost him the 2005 season and will also cost him the 2006 season. His hopes for after that hinge on a surgery that has never been performed on an NFL player. "They're going to go in and bypass the nerve. Hopefully, it will make my foot work the way it should. It's a surgery that they've done on a lot of police officers and firemen and they were able to go back to their jobs," said Reed.
Perhaps the most agonizing thing about the injury is that Reed is basically healthy. He's not healthy enough though to play in the NFL. "I can't control my ankle and if I got hit wrong, my ankle would break," explained Reed. At this point in his recovery, Reed can do many things, including play basketball, but again, without further recovery, playing football would be too much of a risk. "The nerve could come back on its own, but I don't have time to wait." Pushing up the clock means two operations between now and the time that the Eagles report to Lehigh for training camp. It also means that the 2006 season is lost and after that remains in question. "If it's at all possible, I'll be back on the field. But I don't even think about the other option," said Reed.
Reed, who took time out to talk to middle school students about the importance of staying in school, is living proof of just how important that is. He stayed in school, getting a degree in management information systems by taking classes at Temple and Rowan. He's also received offers to start a coaching internship at the University of South Florida, his college alma mater. "I'm not doing that (coaching) now. If I can't play anymore, then that's an option, but for now, I'm still focused on getting back on the field," said Reed. As Reed talked to the students, his message came across loud and clear. His message is that you never know and you need to give yourself options. "Everybody dreams of being an athlete, but it doesn't always happen and it can be taken from you so fast," explained Reed.
So for now, Reed will focus on basketball, bowling (his new love) and finding other things to keep him busy. When he thinks about football, it's only in terms of getting back to the game he loves so much. He admitted that this past season hurt. He couldn't watch the games and purposely stayed away from the team's Nova Care Complex, except for a couple of visits. Reed has what he calls a "competition problem" that keeps him looking for new ways to compete and mourning the loss - however temporary - of his favorite type of competition on the football field. "I play basketball almost everyday and I bowl almost everyday and I'm looking for other ways to keep me busy," said Reed. Before long, he'll be away from those things for a while too, since he's moving closer to his next surgery. After that, Reed's competition will be to get himself back to the Eagles and pointed toward another Super Bowl. Hopefully, there won't be any fences to jump on the road back.