Tue., Dec. 23: Suggs, Reed Win Annual Media Honors
By Joe Platania
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
OWINGS MILLS -- Terrell Suggs came to the Baltimore Ravens in the midst of abnormal, chaotic circumstances.
Not only was Suggs a mere 20-year-old when he was selected tenth overall in the 2003 draft, the Ravens had to perform a couple of trade maneuvers to get into position to draft both Suggs and the quarterback they coveted, Kyle Boller.
By virtue of his happy-go-lucky nature -- not to mention the on-field havoc he has caused for opposing offenses -- Suggs has lived up to that aura in nearly every waking moment.
He did so again at the Ravens' training complex Tuesday morning upon hearing he had been named the sixth annual winner of the media Good Guy Award.
Suggs won eight of the 17 media votes cast, barely holding off defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and center Jason Brown.
Suggs launched into a hysterical, improvised rant -- "my God, so many people I got to thank" -- and actually hugged one of the bystanding reporters.
He had good-naturedly "lobbied" to win the award in previous years, saying things like, "If I don't win it, I'm not giving you an interview next year."
This season, Suggs has been under a harsh spotlight for national-radio comments that seemed to suggest the Ravens had put a bounty out on several members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Because of that, Suggs was presented with a roll of Bounty paper towels at the on-camera presentation, which he held up good-naturedly for the cameras.
When linebacker Bart Scott won the award two years ago, he was given a bottle of hot sauce, playing off previous comments that he would put "hot sauce" on the leg of New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush.
The award, voted on by members of the media who cover the Ravens on a regular basis, is presented to the player who has been the most cooperative and/or candid with the press since the beginning of training camp.
On the field, Suggs is known as a fierce pass-rusher who leads the team with eight sacks. That has put him second on the team's all-time list with 53 quarterback takedowns; Peter Boulware is the Ravens' all-time leader with 70.
But when Suggs is not chasing down quarterbacks, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Arizona State graduate has been known to pilfer part of the media's weekly pizza allotment and hand out popcorn to those watching movies on the 32-inch screen he keeps in his locker. Suggs is an avid movie buff and often blogs about the newest releases on the team's Web site.
However, the leadership he has provided on a team full of vocal personalities has made the biggest difference.
"I think he's a tremendously talented guy," head coach John Harbaugh said of Suggs. "His sense of humor is a part of it. You can't help but laugh. It's usually football-related, but he's taking a jab at somebody.
"I try not to laugh, sometimes I try to stifle it. It's impossible. It's energizing."
In the media's Most Valuable Player vote, safety Ed Reed won for the second time, having taken the honors in 2004.
Reed won by garnering 12 of the 17 media votes cast.
Fighting through a shoulder and neck nerve impingement and a hamstring injury, Reed is the NFL co-leader with seven interceptions, tying him with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Reed now has 41 interceptions in his seven-season career, more than halfway to the 81 pickoffs recorded by NFL all-time leader Paul Krause, who accumulated that total in 16 years playing for the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.
Reed is one of seven defensive players who have started all 15 games so far this year.
As a tribute to the way the patched-up secondary is playing, Reed has only had to make 37 tackles this season, tenth on the team. He has a sack, 12 pass breakups, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
This season, Reed broke his own NFL record by returning an interception 107 yards against Philadelphia, breaking his own record of 106 that he set against Cleveland four seasons ago.
Also, his 220 yards in interception returns have boosted his per-pickoff average past former teammate Deion Sanders to the top spot in NFL history.
Here are the previous winners of the yearly media awards, listed in order of MVP and Good Guy:
2003 -- Jamal Lewis, Gary Baxter.
2004 -- Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver.
2005 -- Adalius Thomas, Jamal Lewis.
2006 -- Steve McNair, Bart Scott.
2007 -- Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: While there may be no prizes in it for you, Trivia Time is just another way we at PressBox are whetting your appetite (and ours) for the game to come.
The answer will come towards the end of the column.
The Ravens haven't played many close games this year, but they did in their 1996 debut season, which featured two overtime games, a win and a loss.
Who was the opponent for the first overtime defeat in Ravens history?
INJURY REPORT: Due to the fact that Harbaugh has given the team Thursday off in order to spend Christmas Day with family, the usual Wednesday-Thursday-Friday practice cycle will instead run Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday.
Because of that -- and because the league does not require any team playing on Sunday to issue a practice report until Wednesday -- there probably won't be any official practice designations Tuesday.
The most serious injury concerns coming out of the Dallas win are:
Wideout Derrick Mason (shoulder), cornerback Samari Rolle (sprained foot), tackle Willie Anderson (left ankle), linebacker Antwan Barnes (shoulder) and running back Ray Rice (shin bruise).
Rolle has been fighting ankle, foot and shoulder injuries all season and didn't play in the second half in Dallas.
Rice's cutting ability has been hampered by his lower-leg problem, but the Ravens picked up the slack with 265 yards rushing last Saturday, third-most in team history.
Anderson has taken the field week after week and made most practice sessions while working on a heavily-taped ankle.
Mason, whose shoulder was first dislocated in the win at Houston on November 9, hasn't missed a start all year. He needs 16 yards Sunday for 10,000 in his career.
Barnes was reportedly injured on the opening kickoff; he plays on the coverage team. But he made two fourth-quarter tackles and nearly recovered a fumbled Cowboys kickoff after Willis McGahee's long touchdown run.
Harbaugh is optimistic that all of the above will continue their due diligence in getting treatment all week, but he stopped short of stating that Rice and Rolle will be ready.
The Ravens currently have 18 players on season-ending injured reserve, but have been passed for the dubious honor of having the league lead in that category by the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that now has 23 players on the shelf.
FOE FRONT: A few notes, stats and facts surrounding the Ravens' last regular-season opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 4:15 p.m., WJZ-TV, WIYY-FM):
- Even though the Jaguars (5-10) have lost seven of their last nine games since the bye week, they will come into their meeting with the Ravens on ten days' rest, having played a nationally-televised home game against Indianapolis that kicked off Week 16.
- In that game, a 31-24 loss, the Jags scored offensive touchdowns on their first two drives, the first time they had done that all season.
- The banged-up Jaguars will come into Baltimore having lost for the season their top running back (Fred Taylor), two starting guards, Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams, and most high-profile signing (receiver Jerry Porter) to injuries and leading receiver Matt Jones to suspension.
- This has been a series of streaks. The Jaguars beat the Ravens in each of their first eight meetings, most of them held when the teams were part of the AFC Central together. The Ravens then won six straight before Jacksonville won a 30-3 game at home in 2005.
- Jacksonville is averaging 324 yards per game on offense and a coincidental 324 yards per game allowed on defense. The offense is ranked 19th (18th rushing, 13th passing) and the defense is 12th (14th vs. rush, 19th vs. pass).
- The Jaguars are averaging 19.7 points per game (24th in the league) and have allowed points at a pace of 22.7 per contest (20th). Jacksonville is 4-6 in games decided by seven or fewer points.
- Head coach Jack Del Rio (51-47, sixth season) was the Ravens' linebacker coach from 1999 to 2001. He played linebacker in the league for the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, making four playoff appearances and earning one Pro Bowl berth.
- Besides playing football at USC, Del Rio also played baseball and was teammates with Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson. Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981.
- The coaching staff and front office are littered with ex-Ravens and Maryland Terrapins, including national scout Terry McDonough, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson, tight ends coach Mike Tice (Maryland) and linebackers coach Mark Duffner (Maryland).
- The starting quarterback is seven-year veteran David Garrard (62.9% completions, 14 TD, 11 INT, 41 sacks, 83.2 rating). He is backed up by ex-Ravens training camp signal-caller Cleo Lemon, who beat Baltimore last year as a Miami Dolphin. Garrard has not been on the field in three Jags' games against the Ravens.
- Running back Maurice Drew has a team-high 746 rushing yards (12 TDs) as well as 61 catches (two TDs). If he gets five more catches Sunday, he will be the first player in team history to lead in rushing and receptions in the same year.
- Wideout/returner Dennis Northcutt, a former Cleveland Brown, has had 100 receiving yards in each of his last two games, the first such streak of his career. He is averaging 13 yards per catch and has 39 receptions, just one fewer than tight end Marcedes Lewis. Reggie Williams has 35 grabs and three scores.
- Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh shares the team lead in interceptions (four) with Rashean Mathis. Eighth-year defensive end Reggie Hayward leads the Jags with 4.5 of the team's 26 sacks.
- Cornerback Brian Williams tops the tackle table with 79, followed closely by middle linebacker Mike Peterson (71) and outside linebacker Daryl Smith (69, 2.5 sacks).
- Brian Witherspoon handles the return duties, averaging 24 yards per kick return and just over 11 on punt runbacks. Kicker Josh Scobee has hit on 19 of 25 field goals, including four of five from over 50 yards.
- Former Maryland punter Adam Podlesh, a fourth-round draft pick, is out for the year. Steve Weatherford is averaging nearly 43 yards per kick in his place.
BIG-TIME NUMBERS: It was a perfect storm of factors that led to the Ravens-Cowboys game drawing a 9.2 cable rating, the fourth-highest of any cable sports telecast all year.
The game also tied the rating from Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and outdrew events from every other sport that have been shown on cable television in 2008.
Not only was the Ravens-Cowboys clash the only one being played last Saturday night, it had huge playoff implications for both teams, it featured the nationally-loved and -reviled Cowboys and it was the final regular-season game in Texas Stadium history.
As a result of all that, the game was the highest-rated of the eight shown on NFL Network this year and it was that network's second-highest rated game ever, trailing only the 14.6 posted by the Green Bay-Dallas game last November.
AFC TOPS NFC (AGAIN): Several weeks ago, the NFC had a golden opportunity to finally win the season-long, 64-game interconference series against the AFC, which it hasn't done since 1995 despite three ties in the intervening years.
The NFC held a 24-21-1 lead a month ago, but has lost 11 of the last 16 matchups with AFC teams -- including the Ravens' wins over Washington and Dallas -- to fall behind by an insurmountable 32-29-1 with one week, and only two games, to go.
The Chicago-Houston and Oakland-Tampa Bay games are the year's final interconference matchups, that is, until the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl take place.
What helped the AFC was the fact that the AFC North did a much better job than expected against the NFC East in its 16-game series against a division seen as one of the league's best.
Helped by the Ravens' 3-1 mark against the East and upsets like Cincinnati over Washington and Cleveland over the New York Giants, the AFC North went 7-8-1 against the NFC East.
ALUMNI REPORT: Philadelphia Eagles' second-year defensive end Victor Abiamiri (Gilman) has had a tough year physically.
A broken wrist forced him to miss most of training camp and the season's first five weeks. Now, a Lisfranc foot sprain could keep him out of Sunday's pivotal home game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Last week against Washington, Abiamiri had a key third-and-1 stop, a forced fumble and a sack of Jason Campbell.
Former University of Maryland defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is now the secondary coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. His unit has played well over the last few weeks after a woeful beginning.
Cornerback Leon Hall paced the Bengals' shutout win in Cleveland last week with three interceptions, 87 yards in returns and a touchdown. Safety Chinedum Ndukwe -- brother of ex-Ravens lineman Ikechuku Ndukwe -- also contributed a sack.
Also, two-time Ravens training camp running back Alex Haynes is one of several backs who have signed with the Denver Broncos as they attempt to fortify that injury-riddled position unit in time for a possible playoff run.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Player development director OJ Brigance is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- but the Texas native made the trip to Dallas to see the Ravens win and dedicate the game to him.
"He was in all the meetings like he always is, around the players at all the meals like he always is, interacting with the guys like he always does," Harbaugh said. "(He's) having that huge impact on our team. It just took our thoughts back to training camp.
"He had given us a talk during training camp about resiliency and overcoming adversity that just really cut to the core for our guys, and a lot of those things have played out throughout the course of the season."
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: The Ravens are ultra-focused on Sunday's game with the Jaguars, treating it as if they absolutely need to win it to make the playoffs, even though a New England loss at Buffalo puts them into the postseason regardless.
That kind of prioritizing has turned Harbaugh into a prognosticator.
"New England is going to win that football game. Everybody knows that," Harbaugh said firmly.
LET US KNOW: What do you think of the daily Ravens Report, or, for that matter, the Ravens material in the PressBox monthly print edition?
Is there stuff in there you like, don't like or would like to see more of?
Let us know what you think by e-mailing us at email@example.com, and we'll occasionally list and answer the best and most compelling questions right here.
TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: The fact that we're picking today to ask this question should have clued you in: the answer is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On November 24, 1996, the Jaguars rallied from a 25-10 deficit after three quarters to give the Ravens a 28-25 overtime defeat, the team's fourth come-from-ahead loss in six games in what was a bewildering, frustrating 4-12 season.
To make things worse, several coaches were stuck in one of Memorial Stadium's antiquated elevators and missed the third quarter.
There was quite an all-star crew in that elevator: present-day NFL head coaches Marvin Lewis and Eric Mangini, current Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. All were on the Ravens' staff at the time.
The Jaguars rallied thanks to Ravens mistakes.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde fumbled a snap at his own 19-yard line to set up a Jags' touchdown.
Later, kicker Matt Stover -- who had already kicked four field goals -- missed a 49-yard field goal that would have won the game in regulation.
During overtime, safety Eric Turner stepped in front of Raven-killing receiver Jimmy Smith and had a sure interception with nothing but grass in front of him. He dropped it.
ABOUT JOE PLATANIA
Ravens beat writer Joe Platania, 45, is a Baltimore native and has been a multi-award-winning sports journalist for nearly 30 years, covering many different sports at all levels with insight, humor, a near-photographic memory and a keen, prescient eye.
Among other events, he accurately foresaw Villanova's upset over Georgetown in the 1985 Final Four, Sugar Ray Leonard's split-decision win over Marvin Hagler in 1987 and Greg Norman's collapse in the 1996 Masters. He also nailed the exact score of Super Bowl XXV (Giants 20, Bills 19).
A longtime member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers Association of America, Platania (pluh-TAN-ee-uh) is in his 15th season covering pro football, having manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex and the Ravens beat for The Avenue as well as several other publications and radio stations.
He is one of only three Baltimore-based print reporters to have covered the Ravens during their entire history.
Platania is a much-sought-after veteran contributor to many talk-radio and television shows, and has also been a contributor to Comcast SportsNet's "Washington Post Live". Previously, he appeared on WJZ-TV's "Football Talk" post-game show with Marty Bass from 2002-04.
He is a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner and was named Maryland Sportscaster of the Year in 1998 for his work on WCBM-AM (680).
Platania, a graduate of St. Joseph's, Cockeysville (1977), Calvert Hall College High School (1981) and Towson University (1985), is single and lives in Cockeysville.