Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs majorly impacted the Ravens defense after his improbably quick recovery from a torn right Achilles tendon. Now he is vowing to play through a torn right biceps at some point this season.
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year tore a muscle late in the team's 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Ravens feared the injury could be season-ending, but Suggs said Wednesday that he will be back at some point -- maybe as soon as this weekend -- and that shutting it down was not an option.
"We kind of live by the creed that if you can breathe, then you can play," Suggs said. "We just got to check it out. We got to see how it holds up throughout the week. I'll definitely be a game-time decision on Sunday."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he will let the five-time Pro Bowl defender decide when he will return, but Suggs, who didn't practice Wednesday, said he doesn't want to play if it will be detrimental to his team.
"I don't want to be out there and can't make a play because I'm unhealthy and I don't have a full biceps," he said. "It's more if I will help us or hinder us by playing. That's pretty much going to make my decision."
But when Suggs does return -- whether it is for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins, in a couple of weeks or sometime during the playoffs -- the fact that Suggs is refusing to give up on the season tells you everything you need to know about his heart. He wants to leave his fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy so badly that he plans on chasing after it with one good leg and grabbing it with his only fully-functioning arm.
And to think, a few years ago, many questioned his love for and his dedication to the game of football.
After he was rewarded with a six-year, $63 million contract extension before the 2009 season, Suggs showed up to training camp a little, well, husky and recorded just 4.5 sacks. Vowing to never let that happen again, he famously cut out the trips to Popeye's and tossed his cookies out from the pantry. In 2010 and 2011, he went to consecutive Pro Bowls for the first time in his career and was named the NFL's best defender last season.
Understandably, he hasn't been that kind of an impact player this season. After racking up a career-high 14 sacks last season, he has just two in six games. But Harbaugh acknowledged Wednesday that Suggs makes everyone around him better. And he has. Since the Week 8 bye, the Ravens are sacking more quarterbacks, forcing more turnovers and allowing fewer rushing yards, passing yards and points than they had before his return.
The timing of the injury is tricky. The Ravens haven't yet put the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals away in the AFC North and they finish with a tough-four game stretch against quality teams with good quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III, the Manning Brothers and Andy Dalton).
But Suggs is aware of the risk that playing through the biceps injury could make it worse, and he will weigh that as he decides to play through the pain or rest and rehab his arm until their season is really on the line.
"In the NFL, there are valleys and peaks and right now, even though we're getting hit with the injury bug, we're still 9-3. We still sit in a very great spot to go on a playoff run," Suggs said of the Ravens, who are the AFC's No. 3 seed at the moment. "I think that's the bigger picture and we're going to use that going forward."
And they could use Suggs going forward, too, why is why he hopes to make another gutsy comeback.
"You're one tough cookie, Terrell," fullback Vonta Leach, standing at a nearby locker, said Wednesday as Suggs talked to a group of reporters about his intention to play through the pain. "You're one tough cookie."
But this tough cookie, sensing his championship window is slowly closing, is refusing to crumble.