OWINGS MILLS — Terrell Suggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker, has a lesser known passion for writing and producing films.
The ending to his NFL journey is one he never could have made up.
“This is Year 17 for me, and for me to have the opportunity to play in such a unique game, this is one hell of a storyline,” Suggs said. “I consider myself a good screen writer. I could have never wrote this, though. This is a very unique week, and I’m just going to enjoy the ride.”
Suggs was speaking on a conference call with members of the Baltimore media ahead of Sunday’s game between the Ravens and the Arizona Cardinals, the team the long-time Raven signed with in free agency in March.
Suggs spent the previous 16 years of his career in Baltimore. The Ravens made him a first-round draft pick in 2003 and he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year that season. In 2011, he won league Defensive Player of the Year.
Sunday’s game marks the Ravens’ home opener and the first time Suggs will be a visitor inside M&T Bank Stadium. He admitted he has never even been in the visiting locker room inside his long-time home.
“When the schedule came out, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to downplay it as just another game.’ But we all know that’d be [expletive]. It’s kind of a unique situation, isn’t it? It’s kind of weird,” Suggs said. “I’m going to be totally honest with you, I don’t know what to expect walking back into M&T, but I’m going to do my best to enjoy it – the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Traditionally, when the Ravens would take the field at away games, Suggs would do a little lap around the field to greet the opposing fans. He would taunt them as they hurled insults his way. He was the type of player to use the hatred as fuel and always enjoyed playing the villain.
Suggs said he has not planned how he will act before the game and that he has no idea how Ravens fans will receive him. The organization has not announced whether it plans to honor him in any way on Sunday.
Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed any nostalgia about his reunion with Suggs.
“I’m not going to worry about that. Maybe it will [resonate] for some people and for some fans. Maybe some players will feel that way. I won’t,” Harbaugh said. “It’d be great to see him before the game and hug him and all that, maybe if I happen to see him. I hope we do, but once the game starts, he’s a Cardinal, and we’ll be looking to do the best we can against him. He’s playing really well. He’s a game wrecker, and that’s how we’ll be treating him.”
Several players opened up a bit more than Harbaugh about the sentimentality of facing Suggs, the unquestioned leader of the defense for the past six seasons.
He holds the Ravens’ franchise record for games played (229), edging Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis by a single game. Suggs also has the most sacks (132.5) and most forced fumbles in Ravens’ history.
“I would just call him a pillar of this franchise, obviously. He’s just an awesome guy – great teammate, a great leader,” guard Marshal Yanda, Suggs’ teammate from 2007-18, said. “He did things the right way. Football is No. 1 for him. He played at a high level, and he continues to do so. He’s a great role model for anybody, let alone just in this organization. Like I said, he was one of our pillars.”
Yanda admitted it was strange to study Suggs on film as Baltimore prepares for the Cardinals.
“To see his face on the scouting report is pretty funny; it’s crazy. That’s just life in the NFL,” he said. “Come Sunday, it’s business. And he understands that, too. We can talk before the game and we can talk after the game, but during the game, it’s business. Everybody has a job to do.”
Suggs has been the face of the Ravens defense since the 2012 Super Bowl-winning season – the last for first ballot Hall of Famers Lewis and Ed Reed. He has built a strong case to join them someday over 16 seasons in Baltimore.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey understands Suggs’ significance to the franchise.
“It will definitely be a little weird seeing him in red. Since I got here, he was one of the guys who I always looked [up] to,” Humphrey said. “He was always trying to tell me things here and there and told me plenty of stories. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how he does. I know the fans, I’m sure, will show him love. It will be good.”
He refrained from telling some of his favorite Suggs stories.
“‘Sizz’ said some wild stuff, so I’m not going to say any of those,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that stuck with me from him was that when I came here, even though I was the first-round pick, before I really had started playing, he wasn’t quick to just say, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a good player.’ He made sure to say, like, ‘You’re going to have to earn [it]. You’re going to have to live up to those roles.’
“Once I started to make some plays, he started to call me ‘The Future.’ So, I’ve always felt like I can play into that role, and all that is is just making plays on the field and doing things right in the building. That’s what I’ve strived to do.”
Suggs is as well known for his personality off of the field as he is his play on it. He always had the loudest voice and biggest personaltiy on the team.
Yanda recalled Suggs being a proponent of a game called ‘media dodgeball’ from a long-ago era. Tight end Mark Andrews, who was only able to spend one season the outside linebacker, said he never had a teammate quite like Suggs.
“He’s very outlandish … He speaks his mind whenever he wants. But he’s just an incredible teammate, a guy you look after and try to model some of your stuff after – just an all-around pro,” Andrews said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a guy like that in the locker room that was just so outspoken. He’d been in here forever, so in team meetings he would just say what he wanted. He’d talk to [Coach] Harbaugh during team meetings and stuff like that. I’d never really seen that, so getting used to that my rookie year was a little weird.”
The decision to leave Baltimore wasn’t easy for Suggs. Returning won’t be either. The Ravens made a late push to re-sign him, but after 16 years, he just felt it was time to go.
Suggs said he doesn’t plan on getting sentimental, but admitted he is unsure of what to expect. He doesn’t know the ending to this script.
“I don’t know,” Suggs said. “With the week coming up, I guess you kind of have to let it write itself.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig