When there was talk about bounties in the NFL at the end of last week, it was only a matter of time before Terrell Suggs's name surfaced.
In October 2008, Suggs, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker, said the Ravens put a bounty on Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward and Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. A few days later, Suggs said he misspoke and apologized.
But once reports came out last week that St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had organized bounty systems in New Orleans, Buffalo and Washington, some wanted to know if there had ever been one in Baltimore.
Suggs laughed off the suggestion Monday, and said the NFL hasto be careful with this matter. And of course Suggs being Suggs, he talked about new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, if running back Ray Rice should hold out and reflected back on this past season as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.
"A lot of this bounty talk is nonsense, craziness," Suggs said. "In Baltimore, we never had a bounty but I got caught up in the Ravens/Steelers hype and I used that word. The league thought about coming down on me, but they didn't and we [the Ravens] never had any more trouble. We've never played like that."
Since the Ravens moved to Baltimore from Cleveland in1996, there has never been any talk of a bounty by a player or assistant coach except for Suggs.
They have had a "dash for cash" program where players would pool money together and reward players for sacks or special team's tackles. But that was standard throughout the league.
Only players contributed. Williams took it too far because a coach was involved and the intent was not only to deliver a vicious hit or "kill shots"but to injure players.
"The league has to be sensitive about what crosses the line and what doesn't," Suggs said. "It's tough to determine what is a legal hit and what isn't a legal hit, and if someone was deliberately trying to hurt someone or not. A certain integrity, though, has to be maintained."
Suggs has watched the beginning of free agency with curiosity. Like Rice, Suggs has been designated the franchise player (2007, 2008) beforeand said it was the worst time of his life.
If Rice doesn't get a long-term contract before the the season, Suggs said he expects Rice to hold out of the various mini and training camps even though Rice will make $7.7 million, a significant increase from the $600,000 he made last season.
"There is no way I would come in," Suggs said. "With a quarterback, it's different. He has to get timing down. He has to study. It's different for a running back, and let's not kid ourselves, Ray Rice isn't as big as a Arian Foster. "
"There are only a certain amount of years you can play this game, and it's even a lower amount for a running back," Suggs said. "God forbid that he gets hurt while at one of these camps. Running backs already take extra pounding, and there is no way he can participate in training camp without getting hit."
If there is no deal, Suggs suggest that Rice talk with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and head coach John Harbaugh to work out an agreement.
"Don't surprise them," Suggs said. "I think he should sit down with them and suggest, 'I'll be here to work out and study, but I'm not going to participate in the camps without a new contract.'"
"Ray is phenomenal, strong and dedicated to the game," Suggs said. "All you have to do is look back on last season and we didn't have one OTA, no mini-camps and training camp was cut back, and we came out strong and played in the AFC championship game. They know Ray will be ready for the season."
Suggs isn't sure about fellow starting linebacker Jameel McClain and Jarret Johnson returning for another season. Both are expected to become unrestricted free agents. Last week, Johnson said he was unaware of any active negotiations going on between his agent and the team.
Suggs wants both back even though he knows that may not happen.
"JJ [Jarret Johnson] and I were roommates in our rookie seasons, so I really want him back," Suggs said. "But I understand there is a business side that gets in the way and everybody has to seize the right opportunity. So, if you're worth $10 million, don't settle for $6 or $8 million. In Jameel's situation, this is the time for him to secure a long-term deal."
Suggs said he hasn't spoken with Pees, who replaced former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who is now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
But Suggs said Pees has one of the smartest minds in the game and he will continue the tradition of building great Ravens defenses. As for Suggs, he started his off season running on March 1.
He's back to work.
"I really haven't thought about the Defensive Player of the Year award much because losing that last game was hard to deal with," Suggs said. "Right now, it would be hard for us to go out there because our bodies aren't right, but come July, we'll come out with the same mentality we always come out with. We'll be ready to roll from ground zero again."