But this year there’s a new Suggs, both mentally and physically.
After an Achilles injury forced the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year to miss all of last year’s offseason and six regular-season games and zapped much of his explosiveness, Suggs is refreshed this year.
The difference isn’t really that he’s older (30), or that he’s trying to make up for the loss of leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It’s that Suggs simply is happy to be playing football at this time of year.
A more subdued, humbled Suggs walked to the podium Wednesday afternoon.
“I told my team that last year I kind of took it for granted that we got to work together,” he said. “It’s really flattering that I get to go out and practice with the guys in June.”
Suggs tore his Achilles last April, forcing him to stay off his feet for six weeks. Then came the excruciating rehab. Through that, Suggs never got a chance to train.
While Suggs made a miraculous return in just 5 ½ months, he came back noticeably heavier. His quickness wasn’t fully restored, and it showed on the field. After logging 14 sacks in 2011, he had a career-low two in eight regular season games last year.
Suggs was determined not to let that happen again. He said he “attacked” his offseason this year.
“Everybody could tell that I wasn’t really the player I’ve been known to be around here,” Suggs said.
“The goal was to train to be the best player for your team, your organization and for a city that has given you so much. The organization and the faith they had in me, and the fans have really had patience with me coming off the injury. I really wanted to show them the player that I really am.”
Suggs didn’t specify how much weight he’s lost this offseason, but he looks considerably trimmer. He said he identified his “food allergies” this year, meaning those foods that quickly make him gain weight. He joked that he played volleyball with 10-pound medicine balls this offseason, in addition to the usual running and weight-lifting workouts.
His mobility seems to have drastically improved from last season. Suggs moved well in his first two minicamp practices, including running with wide receivers on Tuesday.
It gives hope that Suggs can return to his old self, and combine with free-agent addition
Suggs didn’t want to make any bold proclamations about his explosiveness or potential this season. He said it’s too early to tell because it’s still minicamp with little contact.
“I feel good. I don’t want to sell myself short, I also don’t want to pat myself on the back this year,” Suggs said. “I’m just going to continue to work. It’s a pleasure just to go to work with the guys right now. I’m really just enjoying that.”
While serious in front of cameras, Suggs was still having fun with his teammates on the field. He’s not going to be a stoic leader all of a sudden with Lewis and Reed gone. Suggs danced to the practice music, and jawed at teammates as usual.
It’s been just two practices, but it’s clear Suggs is having a blast.
“I never really had it taken from me,” he said. “To be on the sideline and watch your brothers go to war without you, it’s really not a good feeling, and it really sucked.
“It goes to show you how special and unique the opportunity is to just go out and practice and play. It’s a really unique thing, even if sometimes the practices get hot and long and tiring. But it could be worse; you could be on the sideline not participating at all.”