A smiling Suggs ready to sizzle again

Free of injuries and shedding pounds, the linebacker attends offseason workouts

March 23, 2010|By Mike Preston

Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is smiling again these days. He is telling jokes and trading barbs with reporters. He has been attending offseason workouts here with the team for the first time in his seven-year career.

Suggs is happy, happy, happy. And so are the Ravens.

"I wasn't happy about the way I played last season, it was a disappointing year," Suggs said. "My focus in the offseason is to make sure that never happens again. I want to play like the old T-Sizzle again."

The old Suggs had 53 sacks in his first six years and made steady progress as he became a complete player, being named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad three times.

And then came 2009.

Suggs had only 4.5 sacks and 58 tackles. Once one of the most feared pass rushers in the game, he became less of a threat. The poor season can be traced to training camp when Suggs reported 18 pounds overweight and missed most of training camp with an ankle injury.

He was scrutinized by fans even more than second-year quarterback Joe Flacco because Suggs had signed a six-year, $63 million contract ($38 million guaranteed) in July to become the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.

He was no Lawrence Taylor or Joey Porter, either. Far from it.

"No one was more disappointed about my season than me," Suggs, 27, said. "It was like everybody had a magnifying glass on me. I was like, 'Wow, why is everybody making such a big deal out of this?' I had played my way out of the first contract, and it was time for the second. People just kept talking and writing about it, and it was one aspect of the game that I was uncomfortable with. To me, it was just business.

"The problem was that I went into last offseason with a shoulder injury that required rest, and I couldn't work at the level that I had worked at in the past," Suggs said. "Then I hurt my foot in training camp and never got to where I needed to be. But that's all behind me now. It's time to move on. I won't make any predictions, but it will be different this season."

It already has been. When the team began offseason workouts several weeks ago, Suggs was there. In the past, he often stayed in Arizona working with a personal trainer. But those days are gone, and so are those long vacations Suggs enjoyed after the season.

He has traded in rest and relaxation for time in the weight room, where he has vowed to get bigger and stronger for the 2010 season. Suggs calls it leadership.

"In the past, I always wanted a personal trainer because you got more personal attention," Suggs said. "Why work out with a group of 25 to 50 guys when you could have a smaller group of seven to eight? Before, I was one of the younger guys, but now I'm one of the older ones. It's good for me to be around the younger guys like Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe."

There's also this weight problem. The extra pounds were noticeable, especially in the lower half of Suggs' body. The explosiveness off the snap that made him tough to block disappeared last season.

"I bulked up to play defensive end because I thought it was necessary for me to be able to stop the run," Suggs said. "I played at about 270, and now my goal is to get back to around 255."

The Ravens also would like him to add some moves to his repertoire. Speed has always been Suggs' major asset coming off the edge, but he needs to work more with his hands. He needs to become better at using leverage and playing with power.

"That's a fair assessment," Suggs said. "I'm trying to be the best that I can be, so if that's what I need to do, I'm willing to work at it."

Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison can do Suggs a favor by moving him along the line of scrimmage next season. In the past, Suggs could line up anywhere on any play.

Last season, though, Suggs played and stayed at right defensive end. It was easier for opposing offensive coordinators to turn their protection toward him. Hopefully, that will change.

Suggs is excited about the addition of receivers Donte' Stallworth and Anquan Boldin. When July rolls around, he expects to be 100 percent recovered from injuries and ready to participate in a full training camp.

Suggs won't make any promises but predicts he will be much improved from a year ago. He at least appears happy now, not walking around with the long face he had at the end of last season.

"Where's the Pro Bowl at next year?" Suggs asked, laughing. "Last year, it was in Miami. I couldn't get excited about that. This year, it's back in Hawaii. I like that trip. Put it down, I'm going back to the Pro Bowl."

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