Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is expected to emerge… (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY…)
The new general of the Ravens defense had been quiet ever since the team won the Super Bowl in early February.
Terrell Suggs was silent as top young linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger signed lucrative contracts elsewhere, and the older players like Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard were shown the door.
With those departures, Suggs had become the team's defensive leader by deed and default. But on Sunday night, minutes before he agreed to an interview, the Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker/defensive end learned that the Ravens had agreed in principle with another Pro Bowl player, former Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
The general had to speak. Finally.
"It's still about the W's," Suggs said. "We all had a feeling we would lose some players, but we didn't know how many. But now we have one of the best pass rushers in the game. Not to take anything away from that deal, teams are going to deal with us as a whole because we still have Courtney Upshaw.
"We've added Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, plus the guys we already have, we're pretty big up front. That's a stout group."
Potentially, this could be one of the best, versatile and deepest defensive lines in the NFL.
But that's the problem. There are a lot of ifs here. Canty has to show that he can rebound from a knee injury which forced him to miss most of last season, and so does third-year defensive end Pernell McPhee.
Suggs might have to whisper into the ear of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and request that he come to the various mini and training camps in shape.
There has to be a concern about chemistry when a team brings in three new players like Canty, Spears and Dumervil, and Suggs has his own issues.
He miraculously recovered from a torn Achilles to play in the second half of last season, but also tore a right biceps on Dec. 2 against Pittsburgh.
Can he return to 100 percent, or were the injuries a sign of a body breaking down after 10 seasons in the NFL? Suggs declined to have surgery on the arm shortly after the season.
"The doctor gave me the option of having surgery but if I did it was going to take three to four months before I could begin training," Suggs said. "He didn't say I needed it, so I've already begun training. The coaches are aware of that.
"As far as rebuilding the defense, it could take some time, but I'd prefer sooner than later. You never know, but I think it can be done quickly."
Suggs understands the possibilities if this defensive front hits full potential. On one side, you have Dumervil, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who had 17 sacks in 2009 and 11 last season.
On the other side you have Suggs, a five-time Pro Bowl pick and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Both can play on either side. Both are relentless and explosive. Pick your poison. Which one do you double team? Which way do you slide your protection?
Canty could give the Ravens a double threat inside as a pass rusher and run stopper, while McPhee could come off the bench in passing situations.
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has to be liking life right now because he can plug Canty, Spears and Dumervil into a 3-4 system. He has bonafide run stoppers, pass rushers and complete players as well.
"You lose all these people and then you bring in guys who can generate some energy," Suggs said. "We've still got a long off season and the draft, so there is nothing bad you can say about this team."
Nope, nothing at all.
The Ravens made some tough decisions so far this offseason, but they allowed players to leave who were disruptive, overpaid in the free agent market or too old to make substantial contributions.
Suggs has sat back and watched it all happen without saying much. But down inside, he is excited about his new team and role as the leader on defense.
He is The General, a title he used to give to Ray Lewis.
"I'm just going to let that play out," said Suggs, downplaying his leadership role. "I don't want to say too much at this time because I don't want to give too much away.
"You always play with dinks and bruises, but I never had a season like last one as far as injuries. I went through rehab hard because I wanted to come back and be part of something special. To beat Peyton Manning, and New England, it felt good to get some hardware. Everyone in Baltimore always talked about that 2000 team being special, well, now they have another special team."
Can the Ravens repeat?
"I'm not saying a thing," said Suggs, laughing. "I'm staying quiet. You'll see".
But you can feel his excitement.