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Saluting Terrell Suggs

Baltimore Sun - Lloyd Fox

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is entering his 14th professional year in 2016, and it could be his final season. Suggs has truly been a generational player for the Baltimore Ravens and remains the last vestige of the defense-centric identity that permeated the franchise throughout the majority of their first twenty seasons.

Throughout his illustrious career, Suggs has produced for the Ravens. After being drafted with the tenth overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft, he hit the ground running with twelve sacks in his rookie season, en route to Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Teaming with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Chris McAlister for much of his tenure, Suggs filled the primary edge defender role for the Ravens while the team finished in the top six of the league in yards allowed for eight of his first nine seasons and among the top six for points allowed in seven of his first nine seasons.

In addition to being one of the foundational centerpiece players during the prolonged period of team-wide defensive excellence in Baltimore, Suggs has earned individual accomplishments as well.

Suggs currently sits as the franchise's all-time leader in sacks with 106.5 and has been regarded as the premier run-stopping outside linebacker in the league for most of his career. Suggs' list of accolades includes the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-Pro, six-time Pro-Bowler and 2012 Super Bowl champion.

However, what truly makes Suggs special is his fierce competitiveness. Throughout his career, Suggs has embodied Ravens football, unafraid to challenge the Ravens media darling rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Suggs has been a leader on the field, inspiring his teammates with his ferocious style of play and inspiring the fans every Sunday. Suggs has never backed down to a challenge once and plays through the whistle when necessary to defend his teammates and the honor of the Ravens organization.

Suggs learned many valuable lessons from his exceptional mentors Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, especially the value of film study that has enabled him to become a one-man screen eliminator. But Suggs has proven to be tougher than either of them.

In 2009, Suggs played through a major shoulder injury to jump start the Ravens playoff victory over the Patriots with an opening drive strip sack. Then in 2012, he returned from an Achilles tear in record time, five and a half months, to provide the Ravens with the pass rushing threat necessary to realize their championship destiny.

Suggs has proven to be an unselfish team player. The Ravens placed the franchise tag on him in 2008 and 2009, but despite being unhappy with the compensation, he showed up for mini-camp instead of holding out. Suggs has also agreed to restructure his contract on multiple occasions in recent years to provide cap relief for the front office. When his unlikely best friend Ngata was traded last offseason, Suggs did not pout and recommitted himself to leading a defense that collapsed without his presence.

Terrell Suggs bleeds Baltimore purple. He shares a unique bond with the loyal Ravens fans, including his traditional pre-game trot to fire up the Ravens' fanbase seated on that far side end zone and dancing on the field to Young Jeezy during commercial timeouts.

In an era of self-promoting athletes, Suggs does not call attention to himself over the team and understood his role as a secondary leader behind Lewis and Reed. Yet Suggs' personality has shined through to benefit team morale in training camp and trying times during the regular season. It has been refreshing to see an athlete who tells the media how he really feels in the age of political correctness.

Next season, Suggs will be attempting to return from his second Achilles tear at the age of 33. It is unknown if he will play out the remainder of his contract that expires in 2018 considering the wear and tear on his body after entering the NFL at 20 years old and his burgeoning second career in the movie business.

It is unlikely the Ravens will ever see another prolonged period of defensive dominance like the organization has seen during Suggs' career after NFL rules changes and trends have shifted the balance to the offense across the NFL. Whether Suggs retires after 2016 or continues suiting up past 2018, Ravens fans should savor and appreciate his play for the Ravens. They don’t make them like Terrell Suggs anymore.