Terrell Suggs taking quiet, measured approach to Patriots this week

Defensive leader being less offensive

  • Ravens lienbacker Terrell Suggs gets ready for the next play against the Cincinnati Bengals in November.
Ravens lienbacker Terrell Suggs gets ready for the next play… (Christopher T. Assaf, Baltimore…)
December 18, 2013|By Jeff Zrebiec

The old Terrell Suggs would have pounced. He would have used the question as an opportunity to further his past platform that Tom Brady gets preferential treatment from the league, and as an opening to blast the New England Patriots quarterback who he once called the "pretty boy from the North."

The new Suggs paused and smiled, clearly thinking about the politically correct response.

"Terrell, if Brady took a hit the way [Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco] did [on Monday], you think they would have called a penalty?," he was asked Wednesday.

"Different referees see different things," Suggs said. "You never really know. I see what you're doing. I appreciate it."

Suggs' understated and reluctant sessions with the media have been season-long occurrences for a player who used to fill reporter's notebooks and willingly provide bulletin board material for the opposition. However, his relative silence on the field has been a much more recent trend.

After getting nine sacks over his first eight games and emerging as an early NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the veteran rush linebacker has gone six straight games without a sack. That's his longest stretch without a quarterback takedown since 2006.

Suggs, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and the franchise's second all-time leading tackler, takes pride in being an all-around linebacker but in four of his past five games, he has two tackles or fewer. In the Ravens' 18-16 victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday, Suggs played 47 of 65 defensive snaps and he didn't register a single tackle or quarterback hit. It was just the second time since his rookie season in 2003 where he didn't have so much as a tackle in a game.

His failure to set the edge on the Lions' first drive factored heavily in Reggie Bush's 14-yard touchdown run and was the latest example of teams taking advantage of Suggs crashing inside against the run.

"The postseason is more important than stats even though I do want them," said Suggs, who is third on the team with 74 tackles and second behind Elvis Dumervil with nine sacks. "I'm still out there chasing, working to get after them, but that's all I can pretty much do — continue to work."

Last season, Suggs was held to two sacks in eight games, but he was playing on a surgically-repaired Achilles and through a torn right biceps muscle later in the season. He admitted that he didn't have the necessary speed or power to harass quarterbacks like he typically would.

He showed up at training camp in July in the best shape of his career, and he looked like he had regained his Defensive Player of the Year form over the season's first half. But he's made less and less of an impact as the season has progressed as a once-vaunted pass rush has just six sacks over the past five games and one over the past three.

Two of those games have been played in awful field conditions, making it nearly impossible for defensive players to find good enough footing to get leverage and get up the field. But the fact that Suggs' sack-less streak has gone on for six games remains perplexing, as is him being held to just two quarterback hits during that span.

"I think about it a lot but in those six games, we're 5-1," Suggs said. "It's definitely in the back of my mind but I can't let that be my number one focus. As long as we're winning, I'll accept that. It's bittersweet. We're 5-1 and if we handle business and win out, we'll be in the playoffs."

Suggs said he doesn't know what has caused the sack drought, other than quarterbacks getting the ball out quicker. He downplayed injuries playing a role.

"I don't feel banged up; I'm going to be all right," he said. "As you already know, as long as there's air in my lungs, I'm going to be out there playing."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh and several of Suggs' teammates defended the linebacker, pointing out the increased attention that he gets from teams and how he impacts games in other ways.

"Every team is going to look at Terrell Suggs, and they're going to do everything they can to make sure that he doesn't destroy their passing game, because he's capable of doing that," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure the Patriots will look at him the same way."

Said defensive end Chris Canty: "It's what you see with all the great pass rushers. Teams try to chip him, slide protections to him, put tight ends and wide receivers in funky alignments to force him into different alignments, anything to kind of disrupt him from getting after the passer. He's always going to require the attention of two or three guys, or he's going to be a game-wrecker if you don't."

Perhaps, lining up across from Brady will get Suggs going. The two have verbally sparred over the years with their issues starting during a 2009 regular-season game when Suggs grazed Brady's leg as he was attempting a throw. Brady pleaded for the penalty flag and pumped his fist when it was thrown, his theatrics drawing the ire of the Ravens' defense.

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