Terrell Suggs made news when he spoke to the media last week at the Ravens' mandatory minicamp.
I mean that literally. Never mind what he said. The fact that he spoke at all was the biggest news.
Suggs, who is 34 and gearing up for his 15th season with the Ravens, generally keeps a low profile in the months before training camp. Offseason conditioning hasn't always been his favorite pet project, and although he was always in shape when it mattered, he has preferred not to call attention to himself until he had no choice.
This year, though, Suggs has trained like never before. Again, I mean that literally. It's the first time he has used the Ravens' offseason training program at the Under Armour Performance Center.
"I waited until year 15 to actually give it a try," he said with a smile, seemingly aware of what those optics suggest.
The all-encompassing program includes weight training, a structured diet and new performance techniques, and it has worked so well for Suggs that he wore a tight, sleeveless shirt to his interview session, showing off a sculpted physique.
"It worked out pretty good. I like it," he said of the program. "We still have a little bit to go, but I haven't felt this good in June in years. I feel really good."
It was no secret Suggs was at the team facility in recent months instead of in Arizona, where he usually spends the offseason. His voice filled the hallways from time to time. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh certainly was aware, and delighted, that Suggs was around.
"He has always been determined; it has always been important to him. But I have never seen a more motivated Terrell Suggs than we have right now," Harbaugh said last week. "He has put an incredible amount of work in – intensity. I think he is going to be in the best shape of his career, even at this stage of his career. I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays."
Harbaugh and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees both commented last week on how Suggs has embraced being a leader and setting an example for younger teammates.
"What I am so impressed with is the leadership by example that he has demonstrated in this offseason," Harbaugh said. "He is out there doing it, and he is out there competing with the guys every day in the conditioning program. It is impressive to watch, and that is a great way to get guys' attention if you want to be a leader. He has done it the right way."
With typical lightheartedness, Suggs said it was "an unusual feeling" to be a leader "because I'm usually the big kid." He told a joke about being so much older than his teammates.
"But I like it," he said of the mentoring process.
While showing his teammates the ropes, Suggs probably should warn them against following his lead on avoiding the team's offseason program until so late in his career. Suggs got away with it because he's a unique talent and his generation didn't train nearly as hard in the offseason, but pro football has changed dramatically since he was drafted in 2003. Now, everyone works maniacally in the offseason, often applying the latest sports science.
Until not long before Suggs entered the league, players used training camp to get in shape for the season. Now, if you aren't doing everything to begin camp in peak condition, you're liable to get left behind.
Suggs has found religion on the subject. A few years ago, he signaled the start of a retirement watch when he said he was "on the back nine" of his career. Last week, though, he didn't sound like an old guy getting ready to walk away.
"I haven't felt this great in June in a long time. You just take it one year at a time. As long as you can keep going, keep being productive, and keep getting better every year, then you can keep doing it," he said.