Trimmer 'Goose' is an inspiration Ravens: When 320-pound Tony Siragusa, a nine-year veteran, goes all-out in practice, younger players take notice.

August 04, 1998|By Eduardo A. Encina | Eduardo A. Encina,SUN STAFF

An article in Tuesday's sports section incorrectly identified a charity that received proceeds from a celebrity golf tournament for which Baltimore Ravens player Tony Siragusa was host. The recipient was the Grant-A-Wish Foundation, which benefits children with life-threatening illnesses.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa fights off the block of center Jeff Mitchell. In an instant, he rumbles by him and into the backfield in pursuit of receiver Jermaine Lewis, foiling a reverse play and stopping just short of clobbering Lewis.

That training camp scenario is nothing new for the 6-foot-3, 320-pound tackle whose stature dwarfs not only Lewis but many other players on the field. He has always been a fighter, confronting every obstacle in his way.


Rewind to 1990, when Siragusa was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Pittsburgh, and he came into Indianapolis Colts camp having to prove that he belonged in the NFL.

Siragusa, 31, now is in his ninth camp. He came in two weeks ago 10 pounds thinner than last year and looking agile, and while several younger teammates have missed practice sessions, Siragusa has not.

Maybe it's his dining choices. A few hours before practice, Siragusa can be seen coming out of the camp cafeteria, a bowl of fruit in one hand and a piled-on cheesesteak sub in the other. Still, no matter his eating pattern, nothing is stopping the man they call "Goose" from getting in his hits.

Siragusa attributes his durability to a mentality he has had since he broke into the league in 1990, that you always have to fight for everything you get.

"I guess it was a personal thing for me," he said. "A lot of people doubted me. I was under the gun all the time, with not being a draft pick and being a free agent, and I just kept fighting.

"That's the biggest thing I can pass to the rookies right now: just every day wake up and know that you are going to be fighting not just for a job on the football team, but for your life."

Siragusa came to the Ravens last year as a free agent and was reunited with Ted Marchibroda, who coached him in Indianapolis. It took Siragusa a while to adapt to a new system, and he said last year that he did not want to be considered a team leader. Now, although Siragusa may shun the spotlight, he is one of the club's most recognizable players and several younger players say they look to him for tips on the field.

"I can't determine whether I am going to be a team leader or not; no one really can," Siragusa said. "The only thing you can really do is try to do everything right all the time, go out there and work hard and be an example for the other players."

Siragusa does go hard on every play during practice and has overcome adversity several times, including recovering from knee surgery that put his football future in doubt at the end of the 1996 season.

Siragusa recovered from the injury to help anchor a Ravens rush defense that improved from 23rd in the league to 10th in 1997 and he is looking to better that this season. As part of that devotion, he came into camp much fitter.

"Last year, I think we grew as a defense week by week. It's not easy being a new guy in an organization," Siragusa said. "Also, I was coming off the knee injury last year. This year I talked with Coach Marchibroda and we thought that reporting to camp lighter would take a little stress off my knee and it has really helped me. It's something you really have to stay on top off."

His coaches have seen steady improvement in camp thus far.

"He's had a chance to work through with his legs," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "He's done a pretty good job of getting into shape, and we're going to hope for the best.

"Now he knows what's asked of him. Now, after a year in the system, he's used to penetrating more at the line of scrimmage and hopefully that will pay off."

Siragusa credits his weight loss to the racquetball he played during the off-season, as well as cardiovascular work. With two weeks of training camp behind him and with two-a-day practices ending at the end of the week, Siragusa said his knee is becoming sore but holding up.

"I'm not getting any younger," he said. "And I guess the blood flows a little slower as the number goes up on your birthday. The way I see it, if I get through the toughest part of the season, which is training camp, I should be able to pace myself for the rest of the season."

Also during the off-season, Siragusa held a celebrity golf tournament for the first time, which enticed several other professional athletes and raised $65,000. A majority of the proceeds is going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for underprivileged children.

Siragusa is a character. When he talks of his on and off the field demeanor, a huge grin comes across his face.

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