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Suggs helps turn this one into a laugher

The Baltimore Sun

Terrell Suggs couldn't have flown under the radar yesterday even if he had tried. But anyone who knows him knew he wasn't going to try.

And his teammates and coaches made sure Suggs wouldn't end up there, anyway.

Suggs' prints were all over the scene of the crime the Ravens committed against the Oakland Raiders, a deceptive 29-10 victory at M&T; Bank Stadium. Every plot line ran through him. Even when the Ravens had the ball - especially then.

It would have been plain wrong for John Harbaugh to pass up the chance to toy with the living, breathing headline machine Suggs had been all week. Thus, the perfectly timed post-game crack that the debut of the alignments that put Joe Flacco and Troy Smith on the field at the same time were called the "Suggs Package."

"You want to know the coincidence of it?" Suggs said. "They already had [the package] in. My big mouth almost let the cat out of the bag. But like I said, and I said it before, I'm not an offensive coordinator."

True, but Oct. 17 he played one on the radio when he suggested on 2 Live Stews, a nationally syndicated radio show that is not aired in Baltimore, that Smith should start - and, as a bonus, brought the word "bounty" back into the NFL vocabulary, to the delight of the commissioner and the Ravens' brass. By game time, Suggs had spent as much time issuing clarifying statements as he had practicing.

Then came the game, and the real Suggs package was unveiled. It was a reminder of a couple of truths about him. One, more often than not, he's an irresistible defensive force. Two, even in his sixth season (he turned 26 two weeks ago and held a series of birthday events this weekend) when one might think he would grow more serious, he's still the playful pup who makes you grin even as he's bounding around knocking over the houseplants.

The Raiders, particularly quarterback JaMarcus Russell, felt the irresistible force. Suggs took him down for a 13-yard sack on the second snap of the game, then Russell was met by Suggs and Jameel McClain almost simultaneously in his end zone one series later. (Did you have a little paper on the side on Russell? he was asked. "Man, that's over,' " he sighed, not amused this time.)

The safety not only put the Ravens up for good, but also set the game-long tone. From then on, the Ravens treated the Raiders as their scout team, exemplified by the trick play involving Flacco and Smith, in which Flacco looked more capable at receiver than anyone playing for the Raiders and Smith looked capable of challenging Russell for his job.

Plus, it had Suggs chuckling again: Shouldn't he get credit for half of that safety? "I'm going to fight for it in the morning," he said.

By confining his disruptive tendencies to the field, Suggs made a solid argument that his impromptu week in the spotlight was anything but disruptive to the team.

Things like that, Harbaugh said, are "a small part of what goes on in our building. He's focusing on football, in practices and meetings, then he goes out and answers questions for a half-hour. I don't think it distracts guys as much as you think looking from the outside in."

Suggs agreed: "I'm a professional football player. You've got to handle your business during the week, and when it comes to football time, you handle football."

A cynic would say the Ravens could get away with it all because the opponent was so feeble. An optimist would counter by saying the focus Suggs and Co. displayed post-controversy is precisely what rendered the opponent so feeble.

Score this one for the optimist. Not many guys get the last laughs, plural, after the kind of week Suggs had.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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