Several Ravens players like quarterback Joe Flacco, right guard Marshal Yanda and strong safety Bernard Pollard spoke glowingly Wednesday of re-acquainting themselves with San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who spent his first nine seasons in Baltimore before signing with San Diego on March 17 as a free agent.
But no player arguably misses Johnson more than outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who, like Johnson, was drafted by the Ravens in 2003. Suggs, the rambunctious pass rusher, and Johnson, the cerebral run stopper, made an odd couple, but they were the closest of friends in the locker room.
On the football field, Suggs said fans and media members didn't realize how important Johnson was to the reputation the Ravens defense had built over the last decade.
"He has a very high football IQ, and with him and [inside linebacker] Ray [Lewis] and [No.] 20 [free safety Ed Reed] talking, me and [defensive tackle] Haloti [Ngata] just got to shut the [expletive] up and play – excuse me – football," Suggs said in his usual candid manner. "We let him and Ray and Ed talk it out, and then it was just like, 'This is awesome.' You didn't have to do any thinking. He did all the thinking for us. But he's a great leader, a great guy in the locker room. We love him."
Johnson's spot on the left side of the defense has been filled by Albert McClellan, who has made 28 tackles and recovered two fumbles in nine of 10 starts there. Suggs was quick to point out that he's not criticizing McClellan's play.
"It's been hard," Suggs said of replacing Johnson's voice on the field. "But don't get me wrong. Our SAM linebacker this year is doing a fantastic job. I don't think you replace him. You just find a way to get the job done in a different way because the way that Jarret did it, that's the way Jarret did it."