For Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon, the leadership qualities of Terrell Suggs were immediately evident.
Not long after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Division II Grand Valley State, Judon was told by Suggs that he couldn't be a three-down player if he didn't improve as an edge-setter and run stuffer. Suggs, who came to Baltimore in 2003 as a prolific pass rusher out of Arizona State, developed into one of the finest all-around outside linebackers in the game.
"When I first came in, I was probably terrible at stopping the run," Judon joked on
Glenn Clark Radio
March 12. "Getting sacks, I was all right at. I could do that. But after rookie minicamp and minicamp, he actually sat me down like, 'We can't have you on the field on first and second down because you don't know how to do this.'
"So he actually showed me. He taught me how to position my eyes and what to look for pre-snap. He's a teacher. He was a teacher for us. He was a coach, he was a leader for us. He was the guy for us. That's not to discredit any other guys in the locker room, but as he went we went, and as he had fun we had fun."
Suggs reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals March 11 after spending 16 years in Baltimore. He played 229 regular-season games for the Ravens, the most in franchise history for an individual player, and posted 132.5 sacks throughout his career, tied for 13th in NFL history.
Suggs also battled through two major injuries. He tore his right Achilles tendon before the 2012 season, but he fought back to play in the Ravens' final eight regular-season games and helped the team win the Super Bowl. He missed all but one game in 2015 after tearing his left Achilles tendon during the first game of the season.
After returning from his 2015 injury, Suggs, now 36, played in 47 of Baltimore's 48 regular-season games.
"He never took anything for granted," Judon said. "He didn't even take his rest for granted. When he went and rehabbed, he made sure he did it 100 percent. Just seeing his work ethic every day, I was there for his 16th, 15th and 14th years. I was there for the later years. He was just a natural leader."
The enthusiasm Suggs had for the game was infectious, according to Judon, who explained that Suggs danced on the field when one of his teammates made a play on the defensive side of the ball and was thrilled when the offense was hitting on all cylinders. He was also emotional when a game wasn't going well for the Ravens but channeled that in a productive way, per Judon.
"He also understands how to work those emotions and what to say and what time to say it and who to say it to," Judon said. " ... You can't say enough good things about him. He's so smart and cerebral in everything that he did."
Suggs is just one of the key figures the Ravens' defense has lost in recent days. Safety Eric Weddle was released March 6 and latched on with the Los Angeles Rams two days later. In addition to Suggs' agreement with the Cardinals, linebacker C.J. Mosley is reportedly headed to the New York Jets and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith to the Green Bay Packers.
Judon will be one of Baltimore's top returners on defense. He has posted 19 sacks during his three years with the Ravens and had seven sacks last year.
"I'm going to be the best me I can be. I cannot be Terrell Suggs. I can't," Judon said. "Hopefully when it's all said and done, I can be compared to him, but as of right now, I've got to be me. And if that's leading the defense and I need to take that on -- whatever that is -- I've got to do it my way."
Judon also expressed confidence he and fellow linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser can help fill the pass rushing void left by Suggs and Smith and that safeties Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliot can fill in for Weddle if called upon.
"We're not going to lay down. We're not just going to go out there and get whooped," Judon said. "The confidence should be that when you come to this organization, you play the way this organization plays. So if that's Chuck Clark or DeShon stepping in for replacing Eric, they're ready. If that's Tim, me and Tyus being the new 3-4 outside linebackers, we're ready."
The Ravens also have to fill a hole at inside linebacker with Mosley's departure. Judon
took to Twitter
recently to express his desire for the Ravens to re-sign the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, but Mosley got a reported five-year, $85 million deal with $51 million guaranteed from the Jets.
The Ravens host the Jets next year, and Judon joked he'd like to go up against Mosley as a fullback.
"He deserved every penny that he got and I'm proud of him," Judon said. "C.J.'s his own brand and he made a business decision for him and his family and his future family. That's what he had to do. That's quarterback money."
For more from Judon, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox