Terrell Suggs Adding Sizzle as Next Leader of Ravens Defense

Alan Zlotorzynski@@zlotsportsCorrespondent IIIOctober 31, 2011

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after sacking Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 25, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Following last week’s humiliating loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night football, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs questioned the Ravens offensive game plan, specifically, the lack of touches for running back Ray Rice. 

Known for, shall we say, his cooperation in talking to the media, Suggs said to the media following Baltimore's dismal 12-7 loss last Monday night, “They kept it simple. Jones-Drew had 30 carries. His backup (Deji Karim) had 10 or 15. It baffles me that Ray Rice only had seven carries,” This (Rice) is a Pro Bowl running back we’re talking about. You’ve got to feed the horse. They fed their horse. We got to feed our horse.

Suggs wasn't finished and went on to say, “How many catches did Anquan (Boldin) have? We have guys who can do phenomenal things. We’ve got to get them the ball. It’s that simple.”

The comments were bold, and although not brash or disrespectful, you can bet they struck a nerve with head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and most definitely quarterback Joe Flacco.

In fact, Harbaugh's response was to accept Suggs' comments as truth, and then praise his Pro Bowl linebacker. 

“I have a lot of respect for Terrell Suggs. His heart is always in the right place,” Harbaugh said last Monday. “He’s a leader on this team. I listen to all of our guys. I definitely listen to Terrell Suggs. The things he says are right. (Getting Rice carries) is what we’re trying to do. It’s not like we’re not trying to do it. So we’re all on the same page.”

The four time Pro-Bowler has more than willingly lived in the shadows of Ray Lewis since his arrival in 2003. Suggs, the Ravens tenth overall selection during the first round of the 2003 NFL, idolizes the future Hall of Fame linebacker.

Just as he does with all the young linebackers, and defensive players, Lewis taught Suggs about life in the NFL when entered the league nine years ago. Despite living and playing as a 20-year-old rookie with millions of dollars would, Suggs won the defensive rookie of the year honors.

The man that everyone calls T-Sizzle, would probably be the best linebacker on any other team that employs the 3-4 in the NFL, however, in Baltimore, Suggs has accepted his role as the second best linebacker, but not so quietly at times.

Suggs is not disruptive in a negative way. He has never been a cancer in the locker room or to his team mates, and because of his well-timed and humorous quotes, Suggs has become a very likable guy. In 2008, he won the Baltimore Ravens media "Good Guy Award,” and has been touted by his coach as the successor to Ray Lewis once the 16-year veteran calls it a Hall Of Fame career.

Speaking to Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun Suggs said, "I guess whenever the torch is passed, it would come to me," said Suggs. "I could take it. But the way Ray is going, the torch might get burned out before it's passed on to me, I don't know. But I do know that during the past eight years. I've been sitting by him and I've picked up a lot of good things. During the past couple of years, my role has evolved."

Suggs, like most leaders in life, knew that if he was going to criticize any aspect of something he did not control, like the Ravens play calling, and offensive game plan, than he better be sure to take care of business on his end.  

Against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Suggs did just that, plus some. T-Sizzle finished with 13 tackles, four for losses, one sack, which raised his season total to six, and added two quarterback hits.

Suggs stepped up his play at a time when the team needed it most. The "older" leader of the defense, Ray Lewis, seemed to be suffering from a slight shoulder injury, and sat out a few plays. Although Lewis returned, he was not as aggressive as was before the injury.

Suggs' play may have earned another AFC defensive player of the week award, but beating the Cardinals may have been the ultimate personal achievement for the Arizona native.

Suggs still carries a grudge against the Cardinals for not drafting him when they had the chance with the sixth pick in the 2003 draft.  He went to High School in Chandler, Arizona, and attended Arizona State. Instead of drafting Suggs, which many draft experts thought would happen; the Cardinals traded the No.6 pick to the New Orleans Saints, for two first round selections.

The Saints drafted defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan with the sixth pick, and the Cardinals drafted WR Bryant Johnson and DE Calvin Pace with the No.17, and No.18 selection.

Ironically, Sullivan is out of football, while neither Pace (Jets) or Johnson (Texans), who was born in Baltimore, still plays in Arizona. It is also important to point out that Suggs has 37 more career sacks than does Pace, the defensive player Arizona chose over him.

Following the Ravens biggest comeback in franchise history yesterday, Suggs told the Baltimore Sun "It's always special to do it against Arizona. I mean, let's be honest: the right thing was for me to come be a Baltimore Raven. That was the best thing that could happen to me for my professional career. But I'm going to always have a little something in the tank for them, you know what I mean?"

It has not always been wine and roses for Suggs as a Raven. In March of 2008, the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Suggs, and on the advice of his agent, held out of training camp that summer. He returned to the team and recorded eight sacks that season.

Prior to the start of training camp the following season, Suggs received a new $63 million contract, with $38 million in guaranteed money. However, Suggs reported to camp over weight and out of shape. He recorded just 4.5 sacks in 2009, and missed three games with a knee injury after Browns QB Brady Quinn threw an illegal chop block on him, causing the injury.

Suggs spent the offseason apologizing for his dismal performance and promised it would never happen again. Since then, he has recorded 17 sacks, with many coming against the Ravens opponent on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Suggs seems to play his best ball against the Ravens most hated rivals, he also takes the time to give his most controversial quotes as well. His best day as a tackler in the NFL came on November-5, 2007 when he recorded 14 tackles vs. the black and gold.

Suggs became the Ravens all-time sack leader with three against the Steelers during Baltimore's 35-7 win over Pittsburgh back in week one. Peter Boulware held the record with 70, and now headed into Sunday's rematch, Suggs has 74.5 career QB take downs.

With five sacks in three games last season, Suggs tormented Pittsburgh, and has 18.5 sacks in 15 career games, including the playoffs against the Steelers.

Suggs has sacked Ben Roethlisberger 15.5 times, which is more than any other player in the NFL vs Big Ben. His success vs. Roethlisberger lends credibility to the comments he made following the Ravens week one victory when he said of Roethlisberger, "God may have his soul, but his ass belongs to me". 

While that may be bulletin board material for Sunday’s upcoming battle, it is just one piece of material in the scrapbook of T-Sizzle when it comes to Pittsburgh.

Back in October of 2008, Suggs said that the Ravens put a bounty on knocking out Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward. Suggs also implied that there was a bounty on then rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall when Ray Lewis hit him, broke his shoulder, and knocked him out for the year during a Monday night game during the 2008 season.

Terrell Suggs is a beast and a very big part of the success behind the Ravens No.1 ranked defense. Suggs may have to duplicate his week one performance, as Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his second consecutive plus 300 yard passing game for just the second time in his career.

Big Ben would love to make it three in a row for a career best third straight game vs. the Ravens.

In part, because of Suggs pass rush,Roethlisberger has had his struggles against Baltimore. In 11 regular season games vs. the Ravens, Big Ben averages a measly 216.5 passing yards per game. He has a 79.8 passer rating and has thrown 17 TD's and 14 interceptions. 

Roethlisberger does put the numbers up that count the most, as No.7 is, 7-4 all time vs Baltimore, including a 2-0 record in the playoffs. The September loss was Roethlisberger's first to the John Harbaugh, and Joe Flacco led Ravens.

If the Ravens are to win on Sunday, and sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2006, then the 2003 NFL defensive rookie of the year may have to have a better game than he had this past Sunday.

The Steelers are wanting some pay back, they are after revenge. If you think they have forgotten about the 2-point conversion, and the long passes with a big lead in the fourth quarter back on September-11, then you don't know the rivalry. 

According to a recent article, Suggs transformation in the NFL is complete. He can outwork most offensive tackles and has added more moves to his bag of tricks. He is fast enough to drop in coverage, and big and mean enough to stop the run. 

In much the same way that Baltimore will always belong to Cal Ripken and Johnny Unitas, it will belong to Ray Lewis. Although Lewis continues to play at a high level, and hasn't quite passed the torch to Suggs, you can bet the Steelers aren’t spending as much as time game planning to stop No.52, as they are on stopping No.55.

That alone speaks volumes for Suggs, who ironically, has quietly become the new leader of the Ravens defense.


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