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After All These Years, Terrell Suggs Still Sizzling

September 15, 2016
Shortly after Terrell Suggs tore his left (and second) Achilles tendon during the Ravens' 2015 season opener against the Broncos, SB Nation ran an article looking at the impact the injury may have on the team. 

In the piece, Dr. Bobby Esbrandt, a Baltimore-based physical therapist, cited a study of 31 Achilles tendon ruptures in NFL athletes from 1997-2002. Of the athletes in the study, 64 percent returned to play in the NFL within 11 months. The other 36 percent never made it back to play another down. 

I wonder how that study would account for guys like Suggs, who tear both Achilles tendons and how that affects their chances of coming back to play at the NFL's high level.

Suggs miraculously came back from his first tear in half the time the above study cited -- 5.5 months. He returned in the middle of the 2012 regular season, and while not the force he had been prior to the devastating injury, he helped lead the Ravens' defense, on linebacker Ray Lewis' last ride, to the team's second Super Bowl.

The 2013 season saw a fully recovered Suggs record 10 sacks, and he followed that up with 12 sacks in 2014, which led to high hopes for another big season in 2015.

But that wasn't meant to be, as Suggs tore his "good" Achilles tendon, the left one, during the season opener in Denver. It was as if the injury foreshadowed a lost, 5-11 season -- head coach John Harbaugh's first losing season during his eight-year tenure. 

If you go back to the media coverage of Suggs' second Achilles injury last year, there was much conjecture from local and national writers that, more than likely, Suggs wouldn't be able to come back from a second injury of this nature.

But those writers don't know what's inside Terrell Suggs. Quitting just isn't in his DNA. Not only did Suggs return for 2016 training camp, but he came back in the best shape he's been in during the past couple seasons. He appeared to have slimmed down, and while he is 33 years old and hardly a kid, he still shows quickness off the ball.

He reportedly snuck around Harbaugh to take and pass the coach's conditioning test, which is known to be one of the toughest in the NFL.

During a training camp session in mid-August, Suggs once again displayed his fire, as he bickered with an official, saying the offensive line was holding one of his defensive linemates. He was quick to argue and defend one of his guys. But in the snap of a finger, he was also quick to smile and have a good belly laugh regarding the ref's explanation and defense of his call.

Perhaps most importantly, Suggs showed he's still got his game mentality, when he quickly snatched a Joe Flacco attempt at a soft toss across the middle. In a blur, Suggs seemingly turned back the clock while at the same time proclaiming he is far from finished. 

After practice, Harbaugh commented on Suggs' play.

"That's kind of his trademark interception, right? He's had a few of those," Harbaugh said. "I saw Anthony Levine [Sr.] and said, ‘I guess he's back.' We heard him before that. It was good to see him make a play like that though."

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan also enjoyed having Suggs back on the field.

"He brings a special type of energy with him," Jernigan said. "He is definitely one of those guys that is almost like having a coach with you. When we are out there together and he sees something. ... Sometimes he is telling me, ‘The play is coming to you.' Off of that, before the ball snaps, it is easy to make pre-snap reads and things like that, especially with a guy like Suggs beside you."

In a microcosm, that is the essence of No. 55. He has tons of fun on the field, can teach younger players around him what to expect in key situations and, most importantly, he appears to still have that special quickness that makes him a force to be reckoned with. 

There is little doubt in my mind that even with all the other injuries the Ravens dealt with in 2015, had Suggs not been such an early casualty, they could have easily found a way to win two or three more of those close games.

***

Previously, I had a certain level of guarded optimisms regarding the Ravens' 2016 season, thinking they would only reach maybe nine or 10 wins. But now that all the roster cuts have been made, and the team is beginning to take shape, I think this team could reach as high as 11 wins.

Any good general manager, and make no mistake about it, Ozzie Newsome is a good general manager, suffers from a high level of worry about giving up on one of "his guys" too soon. And while I still think former Ravens safety, now Philadelphia Eagle, Terrence Brooks, the Ravens' third-round draft pick in 2014, may end up a decent NFL player, I was acutely aware of the sense of urgency Newsome is placing on the here and now with the cuts of Brooks and linebacker Arthur Brown, the Ravens' second-round pick in 2013.

The cutting of both players resets and raises the expectations throughout the organization.

Issue 225: September 2016