Ravens' Suggs staying in shape on basketball court

Linebacker avoiding weight gain during lockout by playing pickup hoops

April 11, 2011|By Mike Preston

His name is Terrell Suggs, but for the next couple of months they will call him "LeTron James."

While the NFL and the National Football League Players Association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, players are finding other ways to stay in shape because the current lockout prohibits them from working out or participating in minicamps at their respective training facilities.

That's where "LeTron James" comes in.

Suggs is playing pickup basketball four or five times a week in a semi-pro league in his home state of Arizona. Suggs was in Baltimore two weeks ago, and appeared in great shape. That should ease some concerns over at The Castle, because if there is one player you'd worry about ballooning up during this lockout, it would be Suggs.

But Suggs says he weighs 267 pounds, which is right in the neighborhood of his playing weight of 260 to 270. And discussing his weight, Suggs talks about his game. He can play center, power forward or small forward.

The NBA might be calling soon, if you didn't know better.

"Any position from No. 3 on up," said Suggs, the Ravens' four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker. "I have no handles, I'm no point guard. But I can give you 14 to 16 points a game. I'm LeTron. Everybody knows that LeBron James is my favorite basketball player and I love the way he goes to the rack. So, I have a game like that."

Maybe.

Suggs is aware of recent horror stories involving NFL players participating in other sports and suffering serious injuries — free-agent quarterback Chad Pennington tore his ACL last month playing pickup basketball. Even though Suggs might be able to leap buildings in a single bound, he plays under control.

"I don't try to Dwight Howard the ball. I don't try to bring the rim down every play," Suggs said. "I know my limitations, and know when to tone it down. "

Suggs says he won't get out of shape like he did two offseasons ago. After signing a lucrative, multi-year contract in July of 2009, he reported to training camp overweight and out of shape, and ended up having his worst season since his rookie year with only 55 tackles and just 4.5 sacks.

Afterwards, he vowed to makes a change.

Last year, Suggs produced 58 total tackles and had a team-leading 11 sacks. He also knocked down two passes and forced two fumbles. In November, he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month after posting 14 tackles and four sacks in four games.

To keep his 6-foot-3 and 260-pound frame tight, Suggs plays basketball often and lifts weights every day. He also takes mixed martial arts and boxing lessons.

Like the other players in the NFL, he isn't sure when the lockout will end.

"I have no sense at all when it will end," Suggs said. "It's ridiculous because everybody loses — the owners, the players and most importantly, the fans. It doesn't make any sense to me because we're all involved in this game because we love it. Hopefully it will end soon. Or maybe they'll rule in Minnesota that the owners have to take the locks off the door and let us play, or grant some type of temporary order to allow us to play.

"I prepared for this. I did a good job of managing my money and I have stayed in shape. But I never thought this was going to happen. I thought they would work something out."

Until an agreement is reached, Suggs will continue to work out hard. He stays in frequent contact with his teammates, especially those on the defensive side of the ball like fellow outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Even if a settlement is not reached until after the season starts, Suggs expects the Ravens to report in great shape.

"We're all professionals," Suggs said. "Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, they are U boys [University of Miami]. They love working out together. You have guys like Prescott Burgess and Tavares Gooden, and they are workout nuts. You have to stay in shape and find things to bridge the gap between football and life. I also shoot short films. Hey, you can't play football forever unless you're Brett Favre or Ray Lewis."

Suggs does expect to have a season.

"This is America, man," he said. "To not have football would be un-American. It's part of our society, like soccer in Brazil."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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