Perhaps, Terrell Suggs will eventually find the time to deliver the "I told you so's." Perhaps, the Ravens' normally loquacious linebacker will eventually detail his remarkably quick recovery from a torn right Achilles tendon, and concede that he had doubts that he would be able to play meaningful football this season.
But you won't get any of that from Suggs these days. The bye week gave Suggs a chance to rest his surgically-repaired Achilles and reflect on how he made it back from a potentially career-threatening injury in 5 1/2 months, Suggs returned to practice this week, intent on helping a struggling defense, not basking in the adulation from teammates, fans and opponents, many of whom didn't believe such a rapid return was possible.
"I wasn't surprised for the simple fact that everybody in the building knew I could do it, [knew] I could come back," Suggs said. "It was just all a matter of when. I just really wanted to get back. We have a lot of unfinished business, a lot of work undone. I want to be a part of that. Getting back was the No. 1 priority."
Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had a sack and four tackles, and played 44 of 76 defensive plays in a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Oct. 21, the Ravens' last game before the bye week. That he even played was a surprise, considering his targeted return was believed to be in mid-November. That he was the Ravens' most effective defensive player spoke to Suggs' commitment to returning faster than anybody expected.
Heading into this weekend's divisional matchup against the Cleveland Browns, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that he expects Suggs to "take on a full share" of playing time and several of the linebacker's teammates predicted that the Browns will see an even better Suggs come Sunday.
"We're excited to have him back for this game knowing he's got a game under his belt. He got the feel for it. It's exciting to watch him for the next game knowing what he's going to do," nose tackle Terrence Cody said. "I feel it boosts our confidence and we kind of find that little swagger we've been looking for. You can expect a show Sunday."
Said safety Ed Reed: "'I think he'll [have] even more of an impact as this year goes by. It's a matter of getting your legs under you and keeping it that way … I think going forward you'll see a lot more out of Suggs. I could see him getting closer to that sack lead."
Suggs put no such expectations on himself and acknowledged that how many snaps he'll get depends on how the game is being played. Asked if his expectations changed due to the immediate impact he made versus Houston, Suggs said, "I didn't know the expectations ever did. We live by a certain standard around here in this purple. The expectations never change. We're going to go play football and we got to play winning football, and that's for every man lining up."
Suggs did admit that he feels like he's getting better, and "slowly but surely," getting back to his normal self. He said that he "nursed" his Achilles during the bye week and didn't feel any more pain than usual coming off his first game action in about nine months.
"The rehab process, it was a challenge," Suggs said. "It wasn't easy, but we all made a decision that if I wasn't going to be able to play X amount of plays, then it wasn't necessary for me to line back up. It wasn't surprising at all."
During the game, several Texans congratulated him on his successful recovery. His cell phone in the days following the game was inundated with texts from former teammates and friends around the NFL. While he was appreciative of the support and well wishes, Suggs admitted that it was hard to be too satisfied by his comeback, given the end result.
"The crazy, ironic thing is … the only people I really listen to is [the local media] and I don't really listen to you all that much," Suggs said. "I wasn't really paying attention around the league. I was really still kind of bitter that we lost, that I couldn't come back in a winning effort. … But the world doesn't end. It's not the end of the world and we still can achieve that goal. We just have to play better football."
The Ravens' defense is ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing 400 yards per game. They are 30th against the run (142.9 yards per game) and 24th against the pass (257.1 yards per game). The return of Suggs has given some hope that things will change, but the linebacker cautioned against that mindset.
"One man is not going to change that," he said. "It's definitely a team effort. We've all got to do things better, the whole defense. It's not one man, it's not the personnel. It's really just executing and being accountable, being where you're supposed to be. We've got to get back to playing Ravens style football. We're not hitting the panic button. We know we've got address it and it needs to get fixed."
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