Last month it appeared that Terrell Suggs had gone underground. The injuries to the Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker kept mounting, and an altercation with his longtime girlfriend — now his wife — seemed to sour him.
But on the day Ray Lewis — his long-time mentor and friend — announced his retirement, Suggs gave his first local interview in three or four weeks. He seemed far from disappointed with his team, personal life and injuries, but was emotional when speaking about Lewis.
"It's sad, I'm not going to lie to you," Suggs said. "It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career, I've been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays with the man. I'm not sure there is a word that can describe it. Ray has definitely been like a brother to me. It's been bigger than football between he and I."
Despite all the adversity Suggs has faced this season, to his teammates, he has been the same old Sizzle.
"It's his show, always his show," Ravens running back Ray Rice said of Suggs. "He means a lot to us. To bounce back from everything he has been through shows you he is special. He could have said, 'I got next year,' and turned it in. To see him battling through the injuries is kind of amazing and he commands a great deal of respect."
It's been a rough year for Suggs, now in his 10th season. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in April and pulled off somewhat of a miracle by returning to play Oct. 21. He seemed to have hit a stride, but tore a triceps Dec. 2 against Pittsburgh. That injury forced him to miss two more games.
In between the injuries, Suggs' girlfriend, Candace Williams, filed a protective order against him Nov. 20 in response to incident in September. The order was dropped nearly two weeks ago, and the couple married three days later.
So it's easy to understand why he hasn't been in a cheerful mood lately.
"This season has definitely been frustrating because of the injuries, but not just for me, but for my team, period," Suggs said. "It's been a weird season. We're not accustomed to having so many guys out, especially starters. I came back because this is a special team and we have an opportunity to do something special. I wanted to be a part of that. As long as I have air in my lungs, I will play."
As for the altercation with his wife, Suggs would only say: "My personal life is my personal life, but rest assured, me and my wife are doing great."
The Ravens are glad to have Suggs on the field in any capacity. Besides being the vocal leader on the field and in the huddle, Suggs has become an extra coach on the sideline.
And when the team needs to loosen up for a tight game, Suggs can still break the tension with his constant chatter or some new song or dance move.
Even though he isn't the force he was a year ago, opposing teams still have to focus on Suggs.
"Even if he's not making the sack, he's pulling people over to him because he's capable. He understands the game and he knows how to get free," said Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard. "He knows how to use double teams; he knows how to allow his guys to work off of him. So that's just a great thing with Terrell. And when Terrell is on the sideline, he's a guy who stays into the game. He's trying to coach, and that's just good for our team."
A year ago, Suggs was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after he collected a career-high 14 sacks. This year, he has 22 tackles, including just two sacks.
If you think you're going to see the old Suggs before the season is over, it's not going to happen. The explosion and acceleration aren't there yet.
But Suggs at 80 to 85 percent isn't bad either. Unfortunately, Suggs might need to have surgery on his arm during the offseason.
"I'm not 100 percent by any means," Suggs said, "but [I'm] still good enough to play so the team can go on a run, an effective run.
"There is always a possibility of surgery to fix it, or some guys let it heal," Suggs said of his arm injury. "I will weigh my options and talk it over with my support staff, and then decide what is the best thing to do."
A year ago, Suggs was still the kid who lived in a giant's body. But Wednesday, he appeared more humble.
"I was pushing it, but there was never a time when I asked myself if I was going to be able to come back when I did," Suggs said of the recovery from the Achilles problem. "I was just able to come off Week 6 and play. God has blessed me to be able to play and I just did what my doctors told me."
Suggs said he has seen significant improvement in the Ravens defense from the start of the season. One factor was the move by coordinator Dean Pees from calling plays on the sideline to calling them from a coach's booth.
The other key development was just a matter of trust.
"Once he moved upstairs, we started getting the calls in faster," Suggs said. "Guys then became more confident in the plays being called instead of guys running around trying to get the play in. It cut down on a lot of worries.
"I think now we trust each other again, and we're being more accountable for our jobs. A lot of mishaps happen because of a lack of trust."
The absence of Lewis after this year puts more pressure on Suggs to become a leader. Suggs has already accomplished one major goal in returning before this season was over and then helping to lead the Ravens to the playoffs.
It wasn't a vintage Suggs year, but it was actually better than expected, considering the circumstances.
"You know, I don't feel like I've been playing a long time," Suggs said. "I know it's my 10th year, but I feel fresh. I know I got some injuries, but as far as my legs and mental stability, I don't feel tired at all.
"This is a tough team, and that's a major part of our character. The goal was for me to come back and we were going to go on a playoff run, and it looks like we're on schedule."