There were no quips or witty sound bites. He didn't throw out any of his favorite movie quotes or rap into the microphone. He didn't even publicly challenge Tom Brady or vow to inflict pain on opposing quarterbacks.
In his first extensive comments to the Baltimore media since last season, Terrell Suggs carried significantly less weight and even less bravado. Subdued, understated and serious, Suggs — yes, Terrell Suggs — seemed honored just to have the opportunity to practice for nearly three hours on a hot day.
"This is really flattering to me that I get to do this this year," Suggs said after the second day of the Ravens' three-day mandatory minicamp. "I had the unfortunate feeling of sitting minicamp out last year. It didn't feel too good. I'm just really excited that I get to practice with my team, and I don't have to sit out the first six weeks and rehab. I'm just really focusing on that. I told my team last year [that] I kind of took them for granted, that we got to work together. It's just really flattering I get to go out there and practice with the guys in June."
A day after his long-time teammate Haloti Ngata anointed him the new voice of the Ravens' defense with Ray Lewis retiring and Ed Reed departing in free agency, Suggs' tone suggested increased maturity and perspective.
Now the longest tenured member of the Ravens, the 30-year-old downplayed the obvious improvements he has made with his body and conditioning, saying only "I'm light." He willingly spread vocal leadership responsibilities to a host of teammates, and he also embraced this week's minicamp workouts under the hot sun.
"I've been very fortunate up until last year to not have any significant injuries, so I've never really had it taken from me," Suggs said. "To be sidelined and to watch your brothers go to war without you is not a really good feeling and it really [stinks]. So I wouldn't say I didn't appreciate it, but I definitely did take it for granted. It just goes to show you just how special and unique the opportunity is just to go out and practice and play. It's a really unique thing. Even if sometimes the practices get hot and long and tiring, it could be worse. You could be on the sidelines not participating at all."
That's where Suggs was last year after he reported to minicamp with his right leg in a bulky boot, a little more than a month removed from surgery to repair a partially torn Achilles. The injury was expected to cost him most — if not all — of the 2012 season. However, Suggs made a miraculous recovery and returned in time for the Ravens' Week 7 loss to the Houston Texans, announcing his arrival with four tackles and a sack.
A little more than a month after his return, Suggs tore his right biceps, an injury that cost him two regular-season games but again didn't end his season. Suggs played on and had 10 tackles and two sacks in the Ravens' playoff victory over the Denver Broncos, but he was relatively quiet — at least on the field — during the Ravens' Super Bowl run and during a regular season where he had two sacks and 22 tackles in eight games.
The burst of speed that he used to get around the corner and register a career-high 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles the previous season was not there. The power to shed offensive linemen and then slam quarterbacks was nonexistent, nor was the non-stop motor that terrorized opposing quarterbacks.
"Anybody could tell that I really wasn't the player that I've [been] known to be around here," said Suggs, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, a one-time Defensive Player of the Year (2011) and the Ravens all-time leader with 84.5 sacks. "A part of that was the Achilles, and the other part was just small things like the diet. So, I had to make some changes this offseason to be the best player that I could be for my time."
Suggs didn't provide many details about his offseason workout regimen, other than acknowledging that he watched what he ate and spent a lot of time training. He admitted that this is probably the best he has felt in years, and it's certainly the slimmest that he's looked.
"I really wanted my offseason to be really focused and focused on the task at hand," said Suggs who is listed at 260 pounds on the Ravens' roster. "Last year, I didn't get to train. Taking it for granted the year before, I really appreciated just the ability to be able to go workout, run, play volleyball with 10-pound medicine balls. I just really attacked it this time.
"The goal was to train so that you can be the best player for your team, for your organization and for a city that's given you so much. I would have to say that the organization and the fans have really been patient with me, especially coming off an injury. So I really wanted to show them the player that I really am."
Suggs didn't participate in any of the offseason team activities, but his teammates and coaches immediately noticed the changes he made when he was in town last week for the White House visit and the ring ceremony.
Head coach John Harbaugh said that Suggs "looks tremendous." Ngata, who has played alongside Suggs longer than anybody, watched the linebacker get off the line of scrimmage in Tuesday's practice, and he started having flashbacks to the 2011 season.
"He looks amazing right now," Ngata said. "I think he's just fighting to get back into that Defensive Player of the Year kind of Suggs. It's exciting to see what he is going to do. … I told him we are going to have to race for that Defensive Player of the Year. I feel like it will be a great year for both of us because of what we have up front."
Like Ngata did a day earlier, Suggs lauded the front office for the defensive additions the team has made, saying he was "ecstatic" to have the opportunity to rush the passer opposite Elvis Dumervil. He said he's excited to get to know his new defensive teammates and see how "special" the group can become.
For that to happen, Suggs knows that he needs to return to being the disruptive pass rusher who strikes fear in opposing offenses. The Ravens are still a month and a half away from training camp, but Suggs is off to a good start.
"It's just minicamp. We don't have any pads on," Suggs said. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out. I'm not selling myself short, and I'm not patting myself on the on the back just yet. It's early and there's still a lot of work to be done. We are going to leave it at that."
A couple of minutes later, Suggs quietly walked away from the microphone. There were no quips, signoffs or vows, just a different Terrell Suggs — subdued, understated and serious.
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