Byrne Identity: Inside Terrell Suggs' World On Gameday

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Here's what you see from Terrell Suggs when he wears a microphone for NFL Films and Ravens Productions, which he did during the game against Oakland last Sunday:

  • Leadership (and lots of it)
  • Encouragement
  • Questioning
  • Joy
  • Bragging
  • Begging
  • Coaching
  • Screaming
  • Respect
  • Observing

By rule, NFL Films is allowed to "mic" any player in the league, plus the head coach. They can slap a device on your quarterback up to four times a season. Some players resent this, as do a few head coaches and general managers.

There are players who should not be "mic'd." These sound machines become a distraction when a player plays to the cameras instead of focusing on his job. Others you have to cajole and explain the rules and remind them that, we, after all, are in the entertainment business. "You have to wear it," I'll say nicely and pleadingly. (I've found head coaches really dislike hearing football as an "entertaining business." Brian Billick once told me after asking him to be "mic'd": "Entertaining business? Whose? Not mine, I'm in the winning business. We get fired when that doesn't happen.")

Frankly, the "mic'ing" of NFL folks through the years has helped make the game bigger than life. I immediately think of Vince Lombardi – he of the trophy name – and Hank Stram coaching in Super Bowls, and we all got to hear what they said. "Like taking candy from a baby," Stram shouted. "Like a crazed dog," from Lawrence Taylor. "That's why you lift all 'dem' weights," from Bill Parcells. "You over-officious jerk," from Marv Levy. And on and on …

Suggs and Joe Flacco have been "mic'd" so often, they barely bat an eye when asked/told. Eventually, all the players and coaches will be "mic'd." That's the direction it is going. It will make for even better entertainment, must-see TV. The greatest reality show of all time. In the NBA, they already require coaches to do interviews during games. And, who doesn't love to watch San Antonio's Gregg Popovich give his non, short, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me answers to a Craig Sager or Doris Burke.

NFL Films "mic's" players to fulfill contracts with various networks, including the NFL Network. Parts of Suggs' "mic'ing" from last Sunday will appear on our Ravens shows tomorrow and Sunday, ESPN and the NFLN.

One thing that helps convince players and coaches to wear the "mics" is that the team has the opportunity to edit what NFL Films can use and distribute. I do that for the Ravens, and that's how I got to watch Suggs really up close and personal against the Raiders. They sent a lot of video to review, because as the executive producer told me: "He's so good, so passionate and entertaining."

What struck me more than anything about watching this intimate Suggs' action is his leadership and how often he uses it during the game.

"Sizzle" started with the linebackers in the locker room: "My brothers in arms, I'd rather fight beside you than any army of 1,000. Fellas, all we are doing is taking the next step. All we are doing is taking the next step! Let's cash in. Put the game on our group."

Once on the field, Suggs gathered the offensive and defensive lines together in another huddle. He looked respectfully at Marshal Yanda and asked: "You got something?" Yanda replied: "It's yours." Suggs then shouted: "Look at this circle. This is all we need. These two groups. If we play physical and perfect, we will be successful. Take the next step. Take the next [expletive] step. Upfront on 3 …"

A little later in the pre-game, Coach Harbaugh approached: "You feel good?" "I feel great, Coach. I feel too good. Might even take off some of these pads."

At the end of warmups, the entire team surrounded the 14-year veteran. "Fellas, I just beg you today. Take the next step. Let's take the next step. We have one goal today. Get to 4-0 on our home field. On our home field! Defend this turf. Defend it!"

Of course, with Suggs, you get humor. He approached referee Ed Hochuli: "Ed, how are you doing today?" Hochuli: "Terrell, how are you doing?" Suggs: "Ed, I ask all the referees this. If they run the read option with their quarterback, when he fakes it, he's a runner, and I can hit him anywhere as long as I don't hit him with the crown of my helmet. Right?"

The muscled ref started to explain: "If he is a runner. But once he pulls out …" That's when Suggs interrupted: "You have to understand, I am already going. I have the quarterback as my responsibility. If he clearly is giving himself up, I'm good, right?" Terrell didn't wait for the answer, he turned and ran to his teammates. You could see Hochuli smiling.

During the game, Raiders left tackle Donald Penn, a good player who kept a polite banter with "Sizzle" all day, hit Suggs in the face with both hands. "Hey!" Suggs yelled. Penn: "My fault about that." Suggs: "I'm telling on you. Ed, Ed, Hochuli. (Pointing at Penn) He has hit me in the face three times, and he's even apologizing for it. Listen to him." You could hear Penn chuckling.

What's amazing when you watch Suggs up close is his strength. He takes 300-plus-pounders, throws them aside, and makes tackle after tackle. Once he got his hands on the runner, there was no escape. He is one powerful human being.

At one point in the second half, Suggs stood in front of rookie outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who was inactive for the Oakland game after playing in the first three of the season. Here's "Sizzle," the coach: "Listen to me. Do whatever you can to be starting on special teams. I need you playing. I trust 'Z' (Za'Darius Smith). But, I trust you, too. I like it when we have all of our guns up. We don't want our big horses in the stable when we run the Kentucky Derby. You have to start dominating special teams. We need you up [as one of the 46 on the gameday roster]. Go to Coach [Jerry] Rosburg [associate head coach/special teams coordinator] and be like, 'What do I need to do to get more of a chance on special teams?' We need you playing in games. Just think: me, you, Elvis [Dumervil], Albert [McClellan], L.G. [Lawrence Guy]. We need all of us. Got it?"

He then begged for a turnover in a sideline defensive huddle: "It would be good to have a [expletive] turnover. Turnover, come on. Turnover on three. Put their tired defense back out here."

Soon after, Guy forced a fumble. "You are the garbage man. Be proud of it. You do whatever is required of you. You show up and go to work. You're a Raven," Suggs complimented.

Early in the fourth quarter, coaches sat Suggs at the beginning of a series. "Listen here you two," speaking to two coaches. "I'm in shape. I'm 260 pounds, 11 percent body fat … But, I hear you. The NFL season is a marathon. I'm good."

Near the end of the game, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr walked up to Suggs and said: "It's an honor to play you, bro." Suggs replied: "It's a pleasure of mine, too."

You think about the great defenders we've had in our 21-year history: Ray Lewis, the man many of us believe is the greatest defensive player in history; Ed Reed, arguably the best safety ever; Haloti Ngata, the dominating inside force, and Suggs. It's our honor to have him as a Raven. Now, let's find a way to win Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Let's beat the Redskins!

Talk with you next Friday,

Kevin

P.S. Ours is a cold, cruel business, and never was it more frigid than last Tuesday when we released Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett. How about this for being classy – and it wasn't surprising. Before leaving the building, Forsett visited numerous offices to say thanks and goodbye to Ravens staff members. More than one person told me they had to wipe tears when Justin told them he had just been released. Justin is a special person, and he is going to have a big impact no matter what his next steps are.

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