There were more smiles at Ravens practice Monday morning, and not just because the weekend's stifling heat wave passed.
Terrell Suggs, a.k.a. Sizzle, a.k.a. Darth Sizzle, returned to the field for the first time since tearing his Achilles on Sept. 13 of last year.
"Darth Sizzle is back," Suggs said in a statement. "It felt great to be back on the field with the team, there is nothing like it."
Suggs didn't do a lot at Monday's practice. He played sparingly in 11-on-11 drills and he'll continue to ease his way back into action. He said he'll talk to the media once he's fully back.
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said he trusts Suggs with taking his time since he knows his body than anybody at this point of his career and because his health is "the most important thing right now." Suggs also knows to be patient considering it's his second time rebounding from the major injury.
While there wasn't any loud Suggs-esque yelling or trash talk, there's a different feel with Suggs on the field and sideline.
"It was nice to see 55 out there," Pees said. "That was fun. He's always fun in practice."
For months, Suggs has been making his presence felt behind the scenes. Pees said his mentoring in the classroom is "invaluable," especially in working with defensive ends that the Ravens convert to outside linebacker (like Suggs did). Suggs has been working with Za'Darius Smith, rookie Matthew Judon and others.
Now, with Suggs back on the field, the Ravens are feeling his impact between the lines, and it has wide-reaching ripple effects.
Obviously, Suggs boosts the pass rush. He's the team's career sacks leader (106.5) and has notched double-digits sacks in every full season he's played since 2010. In 2014, Suggs combined with Elvis Dumervil to be the most productive sack duo in the NFL.
Suggs also greatly helps the Ravens' run defense. It's an underappreciated part of his game because he puts up such big sack numbers, but Suggs' work setting the edge has been a major reason why Baltimore has long been stout against the ground attack.
In a larger sense, Suggs' return will let the Ravens be the Ravens. He in many ways dictates Baltimore's defensive scheme. Pees said Suggs being back on the field has a "tremendous" impact on his planning.
"That should have been obvious from last year," Pees said. "Once we lost him, it was different in the second half of the season than it was the first half. We really totally adapted the scheme the second half of the season because we knew we didn't have him anymore. Meanwhile, we had already committed to the first half and we tried to adapt, but it wasn't as good as we wanted it to be.
"Having him in there for a full season would be a great thing."
That's the big question. Can Suggs, at 33 years old and coming off a second Achilles injury, hold up for the entire year?
Suggs said Monday that he's still working his way back. He looks to be in good shape based on the eye test, and he passed the Ravens' grueling conditioning test a couple weeks ago – after sneaking behind Head Coach John Harbaugh's back.
Pees could make some adjustments to keep Suggs on the field longer for the season by limiting his time on it week-to-week.
Suggs is tough to take off the field. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 98.4 percent of the Ravens' defensive snaps in 2010. Since then, his snap percentage has gradually declined just about every year. In 2014, it was down to 77.9 percent, but that was when Pernell McPhee was on the team.
With Smith looking ready to take the next step in his second year, the Ravens could continue to ease the burden on Suggs. Baltimore could also employ second-round pick Kamalei Correa or Judon. As opposed to last year, when the Ravens had a huge hole after Suggs went down, Baltimore has more depth at outside linebacker this season.
Pees said limiting Suggs' snaps would depend on the opponent and what kind of scheme it employs, whether it's a running, passing or wide-open team.
"The good thing is I think we have some guys that can play and can spell guys," Pees said. "I don't know if anyone would have to play a 70- or 80-play game. … Time will tell."
When asked whether he would be able to play in a game this Sunday, Pees said he didn't know. The decision of whether, or how much, Suggs will play in the preseason will be left up to Harbaugh, Suggs and head trainer Mark Smith.
"I just want him to be ready at the Buffalo game. That's all I care about," Pees said.
"He knows the defense. He knows what we're doing. He's been in all of the meetings. Anything we've changed, he knows. Now it's just a matter of getting him ready."