When the 2019-2020 NFL season kicks off, it will mark the first time in franchise history that Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs hasn’t suited up in purple and black. With Suggs electing to play for his home state Arizona Cardinals, the end of one era and the start of another will be underway in Baltimore.
In the spirit of SB Nation’s “Revenge Week”, I pose one question: In Week 2, when Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury, Terrell Suggs and the Cardinals come to Baltimore, is it a revenge game or a homecoming for the 17-year vet?
Terrell Suggs was destined to become a Baltimore Raven. Through the same odd, yet fateful magic that brought Elvis Dumervil to the Ravens following a “faxing error,” the Ravens stormed the podium on draft day to usurp the Minnesota Vikings and take a 20-year-old pass rusher from Arizona State. That young pass rusher’s success at the college level seems like a tall-tale.
He finished with 163 tackles, 65.5 tackles for loss, 44 sacks, 14 forces fumbles, three fumbles recovered and two interceptions. He set the NCAA single-season record with 24 sacks in 2002. He did all of that before he could legally drink a beer. The Pac-10 Defensive Player of the year and unanimous first-team All-American dominated at a time when the Pac-10 was more prestigious than the current state of the now Pac-12. Suggs infamously ran a “slow” 4.84 40-yard-dash at his combine, which caused the classic over analysis of combine numbers by pundits and media alike.
On draft day 2003, the Vikings received calls from the Ravens and Patriots to jump ahead of Jacksonville to make a selection. Famously, the “league office never picked up the phone” allowing the Ravens to leap ahead and take Suggs. Brian Billick was asked if Suggs slow 40 time concerned him. His response resonated throughout the media for years, “If quarterbacks started taking 40-yard drops, then I’d be a little concerned.”
Billick and Ozzie Newsome chose to differ from the route owner Art Modell wanted them to go, which was taking Byron Leftwich. That move proved to be one of the greatest during Ozzie’s illustrious time as the head of the Ravens front office.
16 seasons, 132.5 sacks, 33 forced fumbles, 191 TFL’s, over 200 QB hits, the 2003 defensive rookie of the year, seven Pro-Bowls, a DPOY, 10 playoff wins, a Lombardi Trophy and 16 years of trash talk later, Suggs has left the building. The memories are too tremendous to recount all at once, but I will try.
On the day that Ben Roethlisberger signed another extension with the Steelers, I’d like to formally request that Terrell Suggs legally transfer Big Ben’s, uh, behind, to Matt Judon. pic.twitter.com/om9YcdY1V4— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) April 24, 2019
Terrell Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger have gone head-to-head for years in one of the best rivalries in football.— NBC Sports Ravens (@NBCSRavens) September 27, 2018
Ahead of @SNFonNBC, Big Ben, Mike Tomlin, @JoeFlacco and @weddlesbeard discuss their dynamic relationship rooted in mutual respect. pic.twitter.com/epXVTd0znU
Let's watch that Terrell Suggs intro again. pic.twitter.com/pBchPMbjwG— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 1, 2017
This play by Terrell Suggs from the Ravens Week 10 win over the Browns in 2016 is the best play he made in his career in my opinion. Veteran savvy to delay the swipe on the ball. pic.twitter.com/FtmH57kcBL— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) March 11, 2019
Terrell Suggs Mic'd up singing Living on a Prayer http://t.co/hGdpY7hpJ9— Mercedes RománManson (@mromanmanson) December 18, 2014
Suggs is a Hall of Fame player who has a bust and yellow jacket waiting for him whenever he decides to hang up the cleats, but his personality is bigger than his game. His infectious jokes, trash talk, jovial smile, dance routines, celebrations, community service and sense of brotherhood are what will be remembered most in Baltimore. Suggs has been revered and respected by his teammates for the better part of two decades. That’s the reason the Arizona Cardinals wanted to bring him in. He can still “Ball-So-Hard”, too, of course.
Suggs will always hold a special place in the hearts of Baltimore. Pittsburgh fans, however, don’t find him so endearing.
Suggs and Ben Roesthlisberger are the last of the true Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Before NFL rules emphasized player safety, back when fans applauded injury, tension between rival fans was insurmountable and the playoffs for one team went through the other. They’ve seen it all. From Hines Ward, to Ed Reed, to Ray Lewis. The Ravens featured three DPOY’s (Reed, Suggs, Lewis) and potentially four Hall of Famers (Haloti Ngata) on one side of the ball. The names and stories during their tenure are the stuff of legends. Joe Flacco, Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Rod Woodson, Jonathan Ogden, Jerome Bettis, James Trapp, James Harrison, Joey Porter, James Farrior, Todd Heap, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. That’s not even close to painting the whole picture.
Of course, Suggs and Roethlisberger aren’t finished yet. The AFC North plays the NFC West this season, which allows Suggs at least one more chance to talk smack and hit Big Ben. Through Suggs constant trash talk, Roethlisberger has always been quite fond of Suggs as a player and person. Often smiling or chuckling when asked about his greatest defensive rival.
Two of the greatest players in AFC North history, and NFL history, have shown constant admiration and respect through the smack talk and jokes. The quotes are gold. . .
Ben Roethlisberger on Terrell Suggs: “If he gets close to me, I’m asking for a flag.”— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) September 26, 2018
I think he’s joking but not 100% sure.
Suggs has no doubt that Roethlisberger will play on Sunday: "How you doin', Benjamin?" pic.twitter.com/lEwQbP15EM— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 2, 2016
Terrell Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger exchanged jerseys after the game. Suggs said the Ravens-Steelers rivalry has made him who I am as a player.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) October 1, 2018
Ben Roethlisberger said “yes and no” when asked if he’s had fun in Ravens-Steelers rivalry. He’s enjoyed playing against Pro Bowl defenders like Terrell Suggs but. ... “It’s not fun because afterward you feel like you’ve been in five or six car wrecks.”— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 26, 2018
Ben Roethlisberger joked that Terrell Suggs needs to be tested based on how well he's playing at 34 years old.— Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) December 21, 2016
Only one team wins the Super Bowl. The Steelers and Ravens have won four, and played in five over the last two decades. This rivalry is what fans often wait for. Unless you reside within a state of Massachusetts, you don’t expect to win the Super Bowl every year. Football is entertainment. Roethlisberger and Suggs have provided fans with plenty of it. They’re a chunk of the reason why the Steelers-Ravens rivalry game has been circled by players and fans alike over the last 15 seasons. Personally, I’ll be tuning in to watch the Steelers play the Cardinals for those two alone.
John Harbaugh has always admired Terrell Suggs, only speaking fondly of him. Players such as Bernard Pollard criticized Harbaugh’s methodology, and have been critical of Harbaugh following the Super Bowl. Harbaugh has always been a no-nonsense coach. He possesses an affinity for militaristic strategy and consummate professionalism in many facets. If you show up to work every day, act as a leader, and “play like a Raven”, then Harbaugh will have nothing but admiration for you. If you challenge him, that’s a different story. Suggs has constantly backed Harbaugh, and vice versa.
Following the turnover of the Ravens roster following their most recent Super Bowl victory, Suggs stayed. He preached the Harbaugh way. He was Harbaugh’s representative in the locker room. He showed the new personnel how to play. Suggs helped during the transitive period between the old and new regimes, and was the unequivocally the leader in the locker room over the past six seasons. Without Suggs over the past few years, the Ravens have no identity. He’s been the face of the franchise For all that Joe Flacco did, he’s always kept himself relatively neutral. Suggs was the flavor.
Suggs loves drama. Not only on the football field, though. Suggs has always been an admirer of cinema. He’s often talked about Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather series, among many others. That passion led him to embark on his own cinematic production endeavor, “Team Sizzle Worldwide”.
His production company produces films, such as The Coalition, a full length feature romantic-comedy. Suggs also gained a prominent role on HBO’s original series “Ballers” starring Dwayne Johnson.
During Suggs time in Baltimore he became a father, leader, producer, philanthropist, and much more beyond football. He was able to achieve many of these goals because of the game he loves. Suggs goofy personality is infectious, yet he still has been able to strike the fear of God into grown men.
“Hit everything that moves” was a phrase that Ray Lewis loved to preach. Suggs carried that attitude after Lewis’ departure. T-Sizzle is a modern gladiator. His tenacity as a menace on the football field is notorious. In contrast, he’s also a goofball:
The Ravens defenders have an affinity for celebrating sacks, interceptions and other big plays by dancing and celebrating with grandiose antics. Terrell Suggs can be attributed as the main reason for that. It’s quite the anomaly to see a player who can annihilate Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger, then three seconds later dance like a little boy. It has led to antics that have become part of the Ravens culture. Coach Harbaugh embraces it. Show up to work, train hard, practice harder, and do your job are messages that Harbaugh has preached. The number one message, however, is be yourself.
That message is what attracted colorful veterans like Steve Smith Sr. to Baltimore, and has made being a Raven. . . fun. Allowing personalities to shine and encouraging their best version. Coach Harbaugh preached it, and Suggs embodied it.
When Suggs puts on a Cardinals uniform in week two, he will be in the visitor’s locker room. He will try his best to think about ways to stop the Raven offense. The memories, emotions, feelings etc. will be impervious to other factors. For 16 years he came out of the home tunnel, greeted by 70,000 fans screaming their heads off in his name.
Yes, Suggs has returned to his native state of Arizona, to play with the Cardinals. Yes, Suggs has maintained a home in Scottsdale throughout his time in Baltimore, and spent significant portions of his offseason’s there. Baltimore, is just as much his home, though. Cardinals fans won’t embrace Suggs like the fans of Baltimore do. He just isn’t one of their guys. Seeing Suggs in a Cardinals uniform is weird for every fan, not just in Baltimore.
If you search the key words, “Suggs Cardinals weird” on twitter, there are endless results. It will be a strange sight. Part of me wouldn’t mind seeing Suggs come out of the tunnel in his Bane mask and raise fire from the pillars leading out to the field to hype up the home crowd, but in Baltimore we just have an affinity for dramatic entrances at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s suspected that most Ravens fans will certainly smile, laugh and shake their head in some combination if Suggs is able to take down Lamar Jackson in the backfield for a sack (then hoping the Ravens retaliate on the following play to find the end-zone, of course).
Terrell Suggs didn’t leave on a sour note. His departure was unexpected, sudden and swift. There wasn’t a lack of respect for the decision between the Ravens organization or fanbase. That’s what will make September 15th bittersweet, weird, fun, nostalgic, exciting and much more.
Baltimore still, and always will, love T-Sizzle. It isn’t a revenge game. It’s Terrell Suggs’ homecoming game. See you then, Sizz’.