It's not often that players improve in the twilight years of their careers. It's especially rare for elder players to elevate their play after major injuries.
But Terrell Suggs continues to defy the norm.
Heading into his 16th NFL season, Baltimore's outside linebacker has overcome torn Achilles in both feet and played some of the best football of his career last year. The-35-year-old defender said when the season ended that he could play for "years to come," and his head coach continues to marvel at what he's able to do.
"He was always a great player, but he's better now," Head Coach John Harbaugh said this week at NFL League Meetings. "He will be in great shape and he will be better than ever this year. As a coach that gets you really fired up because this is a gifted guy and he is a leader."
Suggs made a major commitment to his training regimen last year. He was historically a player whose weight would fluctuate between seasons, but he decided last year to spend the entire offseason training in Baltimore.
He participated in the voluntary conditioning program for the first time in his career, and he routinely pointed to that as a factor in his performance. He finished the season with 49 tackles, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles, and earned his seventh Pro Bowl selection along the way.
Suggs hasn't eased up since the season ended, as he's been a regular in the weight room of the Under Armour Performance Center.
"He's in there every day working out on his own," Harbaugh said. "And this is a dead period. So it's not something he has to do. He could do it anywhere he wants right now, but he is in our building leading the way as far as workouts."
Suggs' teammates have taken notice.
Other defensive leaders like Eric Weddle and Brandon Williams have praised the attitude Suggs has brought to the weight room, and the team's young pass rushers like Matthew Judon, Za'Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have a front-row seat to one of the best players ever at the position.
"He has set the tone," Harbaugh said. "If your best player, your most iconic player, is your hardest worker, that's really valuable. That's what leadership is."