IT'S TIME for the great experiment, Part II.
The last time the Ravens went down this road was 1997, when they drafted a defensive end from Florida State named Peter Boulware with the No. 4 overall pick. Six years later, the Ravens have selected Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs with the No. 10 overall pick.
Like Boulware, Suggs has an explosive first step, great outside burst and a knack for locating quarterbacks and then crunching them.
Boulware, though, has made the transition from standout college end to three-time AFC Pro Bowl outside linebacker.
Can Suggs do the same?
Can he follow in the team's tradition of outstanding linebackers such as Ray Lewis, Boulware and Jamie Sharper and successful first-round draft picks such as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, tight end Todd Heap and running back Jamal Lewis?
The experiment is likely to begin Monday when the Ravens open training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster. (Suggs is still negotiating with the Ravens on a contract.)
"I thought there was going to be pressure on me right away," said Suggs, 6 feet 3, 260 pounds. "But after talking with Ray and Pete, they told me to bring to the table what I do best. So my job will be to rush the passer, bring the heat and take some pressure off Pete."
Whenever you talk to any Ravens official about Suggs, the conversation inevitably turns to Boulware. But there is a major difference between these two players as rookies. Boulware was more mature, more serious about life and his career, maybe because of his devout Christian background.
Suggs acknowledges he is still a big kid.
He was the youngest player selected in the draft. Already, he has missed a couple of team-scheduled appointments, enough to warrant a meeting with coach Brian Billick. At the last minicamp, he was 7 pounds above his required training camp weight.
But Suggs suggests everything is fine, and he won't bow to any pressure. He'll still go to the movies, engage in PlayStation 2 and Laser Quest and spend countless hours in arcades.
"I'm only 20 years old, just walking into life. I have a lot to smile about," Suggs said. "I went to the league's rookie symposium, heard stories about how rookies wasted their money. My signing bonus, I'm putting it away. The only thing I will buy is my parents a house.
"Am I nervous about training camp? No," he said. "I'm a football player. You can call me up and roll me out of bed at 3 in the morning, and I'll be ready to play. I think I can make the transition. I did a little bit of what they are asking me to do in college. I can cover, and that also might lead to the possibility of an interception and a touchdown."
Boulware, though, said it will be harder than Suggs anticipates. It took Boulware a little more than a year just to become comfortable at outside linebacker. He wasn't used to jamming tight ends at the line of scrimmage. He had never had responsibilities in the flats. Boulware had never had to backpedal into coverage.
All he did at Florida State was put a hand in the dirt and go as hard as he could toward the quarterback.
"It's really unfair to compare him to me," Boulware said. "But when you're a first-round pick and you have that top-10 status, pressure comes with the territory. You deal with it, learn to work around it. I had to get used to everything, from the terminology to the pass coverages. I had never dropped into coverage before. I was basically starting from scratch.
"In college, his statistics were better than mine. So far, he seems to have great athletic talent and is very sharp. I think he will pick things up very quickly. He could become a great pass rusher in this league."
That's what the Ravens envision in the future. On one side of the 3-4 defense, you have Boulware. On the other, there is Suggs. Go ahead, pick your poison.
With Boulware, the Ravens had to rush him into the starting lineup because they had little talent and no depth. Suggs' situation will be different. The Ravens now have talent and depth. Suggs can be brought along slowly, which was another bonus in drafting him.
The Ravens won't be moving him along the line of scrimmage as they have done with Boulware, not early in the season anyway.
"He is learning the system, and we want to put him in a position where he isn't doing a whole lot but just playing," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "Eventually, he'll have to do all the other things, because teams will eventually isolate on him if they find weaknesses.
"But the big thing about him is his motor, and he has a burst off the ball. He is different than Pete. They are the same guy going up the field, but Terrell has more power to work back underneath. He can do more things physically."
Said Lewis: "He has great, quick hands. He can get into and off your body quickly from the little bit we have seen. "
Lewis, though, remains apprehensive. This month, he'll finally get to see Suggs under some true NFL conditions.
"He has a great attitude," Lewis said. "He wants to be good. He seems like a locker room guy, a player that wants to be around other players. That's a huge plus, especially on this team, because that's what we're about.
"So far, he has looked good, but that's meaningless. A lot of people look good until they put the pads on. We'll find out if he is the real deal soon enough. But it's time, definitely time."