Following defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s departure from Baltimore after the 2008 season, pundits started to question whether or not the Ravens could still be a dominant defensive unit without him. But after finishing 2009 with a winning record, making the playoffs and absolutely obliterating the Patriots in the Wild Card Round, it’s clear that as long as the Ravens have players like Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, Baltimore’s defense will be just fine.
Suggs was kind enough to chat with us recently about what the key to the Ravens’ success was last season, what it’s like to play alongside Ray Lewis and what ultimately made him decide to stay in Baltimore when he signed a new deal last offseason. Since he knows a thing or two about the topic, Terrell also broke down what makes a great pass rusher and whether or not he’d like to see the Ravens acquire Julius Peppers and/or Brandon Marshall this offseason.
The Scores Report: Hi, this is Anthony.
Terrell Suggs: How you doing, this is Terrell Suggs.
TSR: Hey Terrell, how you doing today?
TS: I’m doing great – doing great.
TSR: Good, how’s the offseason going so far?
TS: It’s going, you know? I’m about to get after it.
TSR: Will you start working out again soon or are you still giving your body time to heal after playing a full season?
TS: Yeah, I’m ready to start up again. I played basketball the other day and I scored 23 and 11.
TS: Nice little double-double, you know.
TSR: Good to hear that you’ve recovered from the injuries last season, I know you missed a couple of games due to a sprained MCL. Are you still suffering any effects from the injury?
TS: Nah, I’ve got the best trainer in the universe, so he got me all healed.
TSR: A lot of pundits thought the Ravens would take a step back last year, but you proved them wrong. What was the secret to the team’s success last season?
TS: That was the first time our defense has really been questioned, you know? Once (John Harbaugh) held a meeting with the entire team – not just the defense – and said look guys, all we have is us so let’s have fun and just see where we end up. A weight was lifted after that, so we just went out and played well those last couple games and made it to the playoffs.
TSR: What’s it like playing next to Ray Lewis? Give me a moment when you stepped back and were amazed at what he can do on a football field.
TS: Well, you can determine how good a player is by whom he makes good or great around him. I can definitely say that my career has benefited tremendously by having him as a teammate. It’s an awesome thing because in college, I always thought that I had to be the one to make the play. But now I feel like I have to make the play or else no one is going to know I was even on the field because Ray Lewis is making all the God damn plays. Oops – excuse me.
TSR: (Laughs) You’re good – we’re a blog!
TS: So you know, you want to contribute and not let him do all the work. If it were up to him, he’d make every tackle.
TSR: How did you guys cope with losing Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard last offseason? Do you feel as though other guys stepped up and filled the gaps?
TS: I don’t think we’re missing any pieces on the defense. However, Jim Leonhard kind of represented everything the Ravens’ defense is – our team is an underdog, but we’re always going to find a way to win. That’s Jim Leonhard in a nutshell. He’s a small guy but he has the heart of a lion and he plays like he’s 7-feet tall. The one year we had him, he came in and played his heart out for us. And as far as Bart, that was kind of a personal loss just for the simple fact that he was like my best friend for seven years. From the moment I got there he took me under his wing. I can’t hit like him, but he taught me how to play fast and destroy the man in front of me. Me, Bart and Adalius Thomas had a brotherhood – they called us “Organized Chaos” – and one year all four of us made it to the Pro Bowl. The whole linebacker corps got to go.
TSR: That really speaks to the success you guys have had over the years.
TS: Yeah. But Bart, he’s an amazing player. Who knows what kind of superstar Bart Scott would have been had he not been in the shadow of Ray Lewis, know what I mean?
TSR: For sure. With players like you and Ray Lewis being on the same defense, it was easy for Bart Scott to get lost in the mix.
TS: Yeah, the year we had a linebacker unit of me, Adalius Thomas, Bart and Ray Lewis we went 13-3. It was a pretty amazing year.
TSR: Absolutely. Speaking of which, Adalius Thomas, who is one of those defenders – and there have been others – that hasn’t had the same amount of success as he did when he played in Baltimore. When you re-signed with the Ravens last year, did that enter your mind at all? Did that factor into your decision even a little?
TS: (Laughs) No! I can go play anywhere, man!
TSR: (Laughs) No disrespect intended! But it’s a topic that gets brought up a lot when it comes to Baltimore defenders.
TS: No, I stayed in Baltimore because I’m a big fan of my team and I’m a big fan of the city. We have the best fans in the world and they’ve embraced me as one of their own – as if I were born in Baltimore from the time I got there. So that’s why I stayed. But I think guys go to other places and people kind of feel a certain way towards Baltimore defenders, you know, because we are aggressive and we are very physical and we play that style of defense. We’re like a bully and I think guys – like coaches per say – kind of get that chip on their shoulder when they get a Baltimore defender. But I don’t know, I can’t speak for them because I’ve never played for anyone but Baltimore. But if you look at Bart Scott, he’s continued where he left off and had a dominant year. I think Adalius Thomas is still a dominant player, so I don’t know – that’s something you’d have to ask another Baltimore guy.
TSR: I always have to ask defenders this because I think it’s a fun question: What’s the hardest hit you’ve ever laid on a ballcarrier?
TS: I would definitely say the hit on Curtis Martin, but I’m not much of a hitter. You know, I can pass rush and I can drop in pass coverage but I leave the hitting to Ray Lewis and Bart Scott when Bart was on our team. But I would definitely say my hardest hit was on Curtis Martin against the Jets either in 2004 or 2005, I’m not sure.
TSR: What’s the key to being a successful pass rusher in the NFL?
TS: Relentlessness. You’ve got to always keep going and I think when you have a good core of guys around you, it also makes you a great pass rusher. If you look at all the dominant pass rushers, they had somewhat of a duo. You know, they had another guy there, a sidekick if you will, to help them be dominant so teams just couldn’t key on him. Or, a whole defensive line, a blitz package, linebackers coming off the edge – anything will help a pass rusher be dominant. It takes more than just him to be a dominant pass rusher.
TSR: Julius Peppers is a free agent this year and Ozzie Newsome recently said that he would like to give the Ravens’ pass rush a boost for next season. How fun would it be to play with Julius Peppers next year?
TS: That would be awesome. That would definitely be a big step up for our team and put us back to where we were in 2006 with having so many pass rushers that teams couldn’t stop the blitz or the pass rush. I think he would be a great addition to our team. If we were to pick up two pieces for our team, I would say it would be a big receiver and another defensive end/linebacker/pass rusher. I think that would be awesome.
TSR: Speaking of receivers, would you welcome a guy like Brandon Marshall?
TS: Absolutely. Absolutely, because every football player wants to win and I think he would understand that if he stayed on the field, then we would have a good chance to compete for a Super Bowl. With the offensive line we have building, with our young quarterback coming around, and just adding a great player like (Marshall), it would definitely complement our team.
TSR: Has it been fun to watch players like Joe Flacco and Ray Rice develop over the last two years?
TS: It’s been great watching them because they’re younger than us, so to see them go through that roller coaster – those ups and downs during a season…it’s just great to see them play. You know, when you become a fan of your own team you’ve really got something special. I like to watch those guys play and do their thing.
TSR: Is your alma mater Arizona State on the right track?
TS: I don’t know – I hope so.
TS: I’ve got all the faith in the world in coach Erickson. I watched the documentary of him at “The U” and if we could have any kind of success that they had, it would be a step up for us.
TSR: I appreciate your chatting with us today Terrell and I won’t take up much more of your time, but give me a prediction for the Ravens next season.
TS: It’s just going to be exciting. I can’t give you numbers or anything like that, but it will be exciting. We will be a team to watch in 2010.
TSR: Well, I wish you a healthy offseason and keep up the good work on the basketball court.
TS: (Laughs) All right!
TSR: Thanks, Terrell.
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