The Ravens won’t know the extent of Terrell Suggs’ Achilles tendon injury until Tuesday, but they are prepared to be without their top pass rusher and the reigning NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for a good part — if not all — of the 2012 season.
Suggs tore his Achilles last Saturday during a workout in Arizona. He’ll see noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson on Tuesday in North Carolina to find out the severity of the tear and to have it surgically repaired.
“I've already been to see two different doctors. One says it is a partial tear. One says it is a full tear,” Suggs said in a phone interview with The Sun. “I don't know what the hell is going on. I've been in contact with the Ravens, and there will be a procedure done Tuesday to correct the problem.”
The Ravens, who first learned of the severity of Suggs’ injury Monday, three days after selecting Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw with their first pick of the 2012 draft, confirmed that Suggs will see a specialist early next week, and they’ll have further comment at that point.
However, team officials are hopeful Suggs could return within six months, which would appear to be slightly optimistic. A study done by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 2006 — and first cited by ESPN — established the basic amount of time to return to full activity following Achilles’ surgery is four to six months, but the average return to playing in an NFL game is 11 months. Even then, it takes some players far longer to regain their speed and explosiveness.
Suggs, 29, was adamant that he doesn’t expect it to be a season-ending injury, vowing on his Twitter account that “everything [that] can and needs to be done, will be done. I will be in a Ravens uniform in 2012!!” He expressed those same sentiments in an earlier interview with The Sun.
“It's amazing people are starting to write me off already, the entire season,” said Suggs, who has missed only three games in his nine-year NFL career, all coming in 2009 due to a knee injury. “It will take three or four months to heal. Well, it's still three months before training camp, and then another month of training camp. At the minimum, I'll be back in October, and at the maximum, most definitely back in November.”
Suggs said that he sustained the injury during a workout in Arizona, denying an ESPN report that he got hurt playing basketball.
“Every year we have that condition run and it kicks my butt,” Suggs said. “So, a couple of weeks ago I started preparing for it. You build up, one week, two weeks, three weeks … and that's how I got injured. I was doing the 40-yard cone shuffles.”
Suggs has not attended voluntary workouts at the team facility in Owings Mills, choosing instead to remain in Arizona . If it is determined Suggs suffered a non-football injury, the Ravens technically would not be obligated to pay his salary while he’s on the non-football injury list. However, it appears unlikely they would go that route with Suggs, one of the franchise’s best all-time players.
Either way, it’s a huge blow to the Ravens and their hope of repeating as AFC North champions, and getting to the Super Bowl after coming just seconds away from beating the New England Patriots and facing the New York Giants in the title game last season.
Suggs was a big part of the Ravens’ 2011 success with an AFC and career-high 14 sacks, an NFL-best seven forced fumbles, two interceptions and 70 tackles. The finest season of his career was recognized when he became the third Raven in franchise history to be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The Ravens, who ranked third in the NFL in overall defense and third with 48 sacks, were already looking this offseason to add another pass rusher to take some of the pressure off of Suggs. Now, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and new defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have to figure out a way — at least for a good part of the season — to make up for the loss of Suggs. .
Ironically, Harbaugh was asked last Saturday — the day Suggs was injured — about whether Courtney Upshaw and third-round pick, running backBernard Pierce, might contribute right away.
“You are always one play away from being a starter anyway,” Harbaugh said.
Upshaw, who was taken with the 35th overall pick after the Ravens traded back into the second round, had 17 1/2 career sacks at Alabama with 9 1/2 coming his senior year. Before Suggs’ injury, Upshaw was expected to compete with fourth-year player Paul Kruger for the outside linebacker job vacated by Jarret Johnson, who signed with the San Diego Chargers a couple of days into free agency.
Now, both Upshaw and Kruger may have to start opposite each other, with Sergio Kindle, Albert McClellan and Michael McAdoo stepping into more prominent roles.
The Ravens also could explore a trade — the New York Giants’ Osi Umenyiora and the Indianapolis Colts’ Dwight Freeney are among the pass rushers who could be available — but they never like moving draft picks and they have less than $2 million in salary cap space. The free agent market is also thin on pass rushers though Matt Roth (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Andre Carter (New England Patriots) would bring some pass-rushing skills.
However, any of the replacements will obviously represent a serious downgrade over Suggs, who is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks (82 1/2 ), sack yardage (610) and forced fumbles (29), is second in fumble recoveries (11) and third in tackles (660).
“I've never been seriously hurt before,” Suggs said. “[Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis, the greatest player ever, has been hurt a couple of times, but he has always come back strong. I've never been through anything like this before. It is nerve racking, but I want to repeat, not just as the player of the year, but to get back to the championship game and then the super bowl. I can't get it done, win the player of the year, playing only nine games, but I can help us still win a Super Bowl, and that's one hell of a consolation prize.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Preston contributed to this article.