The marriage of Terrell Suggs and the Ravens is an NFL classic. Sixteen years together. Sixteen years of great football.
Please note I'm using the present tense here, i.e., the marriage IS a classic. Because it isn't over.
Sure, Suggs will wear another team's uniform for the first time in 2019 when he lines up for the Arizona Cardinals. It's going to be weird. You wish it weren't so. As with any iconic player so linked to a franchise, the best-case scenario was for Suggs to finish his career as a one-team guy. It's a rare and beautiful thing.
But this happens all the time. Johnny Unitas took his final snaps as a San Diego Charger. Ed Reed visited M&T Bank Stadium as a member of the Houston Texans and New York Jets.
Endings are as hard in football as they are in the rest of life, never easy to orchestrate.
But Reed's time as the enemy was brief, quickly forgotten. He's heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as, unmistakably, a Ravens lifer, every bit as linked to the franchise as Ray Lewis. He comes back to games and exhorts fans to cheer. There's no doubt where his football heart lies.
I fully expect Suggs to follow the same path.
His signing with the Cardinals does bring to an end his time as an active player with the Ravens. Calling it a meaningful mile marker for the franchise doesn't begin to do it justice. Suggs is one of the five greatest players ever to wear the purple uniform. His 132.5 quarterback sacks will stand as the franchise's career record for a long time.
What was your favorite play from Suggs' career? His "thighmaster" interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a classic, as was his fumble return for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders last season. There are too many sacks to consider.
Even more memorable, though, was the nonstop entertainment Suggs delivered while going through the daily paces of his job.
Pure and simple, Suggs was fun.
I'll be honest: My favorite moments from Suggs' time here don't involve football. The video of him trash-talking Pittsburgh fans before a game must be seen. He loved going on the road and playing the "villain," even if his banter was mostly in jest. The "Ball So Hard" thing was hilarious, as were most of his (bleeping) podium sessions.
Remember when he thought the team needed a lift so he wore a Bane mask coming out of the tunnel for his pregame introduction?
It's possible to imagine the Ravens playing football without Suggs, who'll turn 37 in October; the importance of finding his replacement has been a talking point for years. But I can't imagine life at the Under Armour Performance Center without Suggs roaming the halls, his loud voice always preceding him, the staff wondering what T-Sizzle was up to now. Is he stealing candy again?
Certainly, practices will never be the same without Suggs commandeering golf carts and jabbering at Joe Flacco and the offense to wake up – the same Flacco whom Suggs endlessly supported, most memorably in an ESPN debate with Skip Bayless.
Lost amid the grins was the fact that Suggs' priorities were firmly in order. He always put the team first, never settled for minor victories. His stated goal, always, was to win it all. Nothing else was nearly as important.
The Cardinals and their fans are in for a treat in 2019. But don't call this a divorce from the Ravens, because it isn't. It's a brief separation, a temporary condition, to be followed by reconciliation and a long, happy post-football life together. There'll be a Ring of Honor ceremony, probably a Hall of Fame induction.
Suggs won't play much longer, but he does have many years left as a hallowed former player, and as with Reed and Lewis, he's more appreciated here than anywhere else. His football heart resides in Baltimore.
I'm already looking forward to seeing what antics he pulls when he comes back to exhort the crowd at a playoff game.