Terrell Suggs always detested the offseason mandatory minicamp . He hated leaving his family and his offseason home long before the start of training camp. He had zero interest in spending the week running around and sweating through the same tedious drills and activities.
But as he watched his teammates head on and off the practice fields in Owings Mills this week, his right foot encased in a big boot that extended below his knee, Suggs would have done anything to get out there with them, even in Wednesday’s heat and Tuesday’s rain.
“This is a very unfamiliar feeling for me,” said Suggs Thursday following the Ravens’ final team workout before next month’s training camp. “I used to dread this. I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I got minicamp.’ But now, I’ve never appreciated it so much because I’ve never had to sit and watch my brothers go to battle without me. So, it’s definitely frustrating, but it’s going to be a learning experience for me.”
Suggs, the Ravens’ star linebacker and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, spoke to a group of reporters Thursday for the first time since he tore his right Achilles in April. In his typically jovial and talkative mood, Suggs reiterated that he’ll return at some point during the 2012-13 season, again denied that he sustained the injury while playing basketball and expressed great confidence that the Ravens’ defense can maintain its high standard without him.
“Like I said before when I first got injured, I will be in a Baltimore Ravens uniform in 2012,” Suggs said. “The only question is when.”
Suggs, who was able to ditch his crutches after a visit with his surgeon, Dr. Robert Anderson on Monday, declined to provide a timetable for his return. In multiple interviews with The Sun since sustaining the injury, Suggs has said he expects to be back on the field by November at the latest. That would represent a far quicker return than most NFL players have experienced in recovering from torn Achilles’ injuries.
However Thursday , he abstained from making any predictions, even admitting that “maybe we were shooting too far” about a potential November return, and calling that “just a guess.”
“I’ve never sat out before. You’ve got to know your body,” Suggs said. “They constantly keep trying to tell me, ‘Rehab and rest. Work as hard as you can.’ Right now, rehab is my football skill and until I master it, I won’t be out there. So, I’m definitely trying to become All-Pro at that, ASAP.”
Suggs, 29, said there will be no “off days” in his rehabilitation program, comparing it to two-a-day practices in that they’ll work on strengthening and increasing the flexibility in his foot and then spend time icing it and resting it.
He has been buoyed not only by the progress that he’s already made, but by the fact that Dr. Anderson used a new surgical procedure that featured a smaller incisionand is aimed at accelerating the recovery process.
“They said that the procedure that was done was really neat, and it’s known to shorten recovery time. We’re just going to be optimistic,” Suggs said. “Until the season is over, I guess we don’t know, or, like I said, until I run out of the tunnel, we’ll see.”
There has been plenty of debate on how Suggs was injured despite the fact that he said several times that he got hurt while doing a conditioning test. An ESPN report earlier this month, which included eyewitness testimony, alleged that Suggs was hurt while playing a pick-up basketball game. In the report, Herman Hoffman, the director of the Akchin Gymnasium in Arizona where the injury allegedly occurred, said that Suggs had “no movement, no step, and it swelled up right away.”
However, Suggs called the story “crazy” and said that while he did play basketball this offseason, that’s not when the injury occurred.
“We’re talking about two entirely different incidents,” Suggs said. “I didn’t get hurt doing that. That’s not what happened. I have built enough relationships here with [General Manager Ozzie Newsome], my head coach, my teammates. Any of you all, you can call me and say, ‘Sizzle, what happened?’ I’ll tell you what happened. That’s not what happened. It happened running my conditioning test. Like I said, it was upsetting at first but then I got over it. I was like, ‘Hey man, they weren’t there.’ And then [Hoffman] was like, ‘That looked like an Achilles [injury].’ I was like, ‘That’s why you decided to be a gym director and not a doctor.’”
For their part, the Ravens have said that how Suggs was injured is irrelevant. They would have been allowed to withhold some of the linebacker’s 2012 salary because it was a non-football injury that occurred away from the team facility. However, owner Steve Bisciotti told The Sun last week the speculation that they wouldn’t pay Suggs’ entire salary was “nonsense.”
Knowing how the Ravens do business, Suggs never expected that they would.
“After 10 years, you build a relationship with the people around here. You have their back, and I come through and I give my all for them,” Suggs said. “Just like when I won my MVP award, they’ve always been behind me no matter what was going on or what was happening in my life. I consider this organization my family.”
Suggs acknowledged that he will not have to play a role in helping that “family” deal with his absence. That process started this week when Suggs attended all the meetings and spoke to several of the players that will have to fill his role, including Paul Kruger and rookie Courtney Upshaw.
“He is part of everything we’re doing, except for practice,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
En route to becoming the third Defensive Player of the Year in franchise history, Suggs set a career-high with 14 sacks and set a franchise-record with seven forced fumbles. That’s a lot to replace, but Suggs insists the pieces are in place.
“This defense has tons of stars,” he said. “This defense definitely can get it done and hold the levies until I get back, just like we had to do when we lost our general [Ray Lewis] last year for four games. So, you have to go get it done.”
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