Preston: 'Vader of the group,' Terrell Suggs enjoys twilight of Ravens career with twinkle in eyes

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs talks about his 15th season with the team and preparing for the upcoming season. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is handling the twilight of his NFL career in his unique way. It's all going to end with a big smile on his face.

As the final practice of the three-day minicamp came to a close Thursday, Suggs started by hijacking team owner Steve Bisciotti's golf cart along with defensive tackle Brandon Williams and ended his session by catching a touchdown pass in the end zone.


Why was one of the NFL's top linebackers catching passes? Who knows? Why did he leave practice about 45 minutes early before everyone else for the second day in a row? It's uncertain.

And we don't care. He is Terrell Suggs; he does whatever he wants.


"I only know how to be Sizzle. Everyone else is taken," said Suggs, who is entering his 15th season and is the Ravens' all-time sack leader with 114.5. "I might as well just be myself. I'm going to have a tremendous amount of fun this year and in camp. I'm going to be a big kid."

Don't get the impression Suggs is disrespectful to coach John Harbaugh or his teammates. When a player reaches a certain stature in the league, he gets more privileges than others and handles his final years differently.

Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden left the game shortly after a toe injury caused a slight drop-off in his weekly performance. You admire Ogden for that because he was a model of perfection. If he couldn't give 100 percent, then he didn't want to play.

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis struggled with his declining skills during the last two seasons of his 17-year career and was irritated by any criticism about having lost a step or two.

But Suggs is like former tight end Shannon Sharpe, who played two years in Baltimore after 10 in Denver. Sharpe had a blast as a Raven, from taping rookies to goal posts to becoming the team's top trash-talker. Suggs can rival Sharpe in yap and has a more stylish wardrobe.

Suggs still has some TV gigs and possibly wants to go into filmmaking when he retires. He knows he isn't the player he was when he was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, but that's not important.

He is just enjoying the remaining moments.

"Yes, and it's a new era of Ravens. I'm the Vader of the group — the last of my kind," Suggs said. "I like that, but you can't deny a C.J. Mosley or a Brandon Williams, Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson. It's very fortunate of me to still be a part … to be the last piece of that transition. It's a good feeling, but it's also exciting to see these young guys go out there and create the new era of Ravens with the statement they're trying to make, too."

"I'm just enjoying my time. When it's time for me to cross that bridge [into retirement], I'll cross it proudly. I just don't feel like it's the time yet."

His leadership is needed more than ever before because the Ravens have a lot of young players on defense, especially at linebacker with second-year players Kamalei Correa and Matthew Judon and rookies Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser.

But Suggs' leadership is different from what we've seen in the past in Baltimore. We're used to the stoic personality of John Unitas and the flamboyance of Lewis, but not the antics and one-liners of Suggs, who can liven a practice or ease the tension leading up to a big game.

Suggs puts in more time in the film room than many expect.


"This guy is a smart," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I would say he is one of our smartest defensive players, if not the smartest we have. Do not kid yourself about all the joking around and all of that kind of stuff."

"You can really tell a difference in our types of practice when he is here and when he is not here. It is more fun for me when he is here, too. But, when it is time to be serious, there is nobody more serious. There is really nobody smarter on this defensive football team than Terrell Suggs."

Suggs has already taken control of the young guys.

"I think he has always embraced it," Harbaugh said of Suggs' leadership. "It probably is better than ever right now certainly. What I am so impressed with is the leadership by example that he has demonstrated in this offseason. He is out there doing it, and he is out there competing with the guys every day in the conditioning program. It is impressive to watch, and that is a great way to get guys attention if you want to be a leader. He has done it the right way."

Suggs has caught on that if he wants to keep playing he has to put in more time as far as training and diet. This was the first time in 15 years he participated in the team's offseason conditioning program.

In the past when Suggs was overweight and out of shape, he wore a lot of clothing and stayed away from the media during offseason camps. He has been wearing a tank top the past three days.

Few on the coaching staff are expecting miracles, but a well-conditioned Suggs is still better than 60 to 70 percent of the offensive tackles in the NFL.

He still will make his share of plays. And as usual, he'll do it with a smile on his face.


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