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Terrell Suggs Coming Back, His Loss Underestimated


Terrell Suggs hasn't talked publicly since tearing his Achilles in the first game of the season.

But he has talked with Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, and the veteran outside linebacker has made it clear that he expects to return in 2016 for his 14th NFL season.

"In my last conversation with him, his answer to me was 'I don't want to leave the game the way I left it out in Denver,'" Newsome said. "I think he's using that as motivation."

Suggs, 33, kept a low profile this season as he recovered from the injury. He rehabbed on his own and didn't watch a game from the sidelines until the Week 16 matchup with the Steelers.

That absence led to questions about whether he would continue his NFL career.

"I think he had his reasons why for not being here, both personal and other reasons," Newsome said. "He chose not to be in the building so that the focal point is on the guys, as he would say – on the field, and not necessarily on him as a guy that's rehabbing."

Losing Suggs was clearly a heavy blow to the Ravens, who went on to have their worst season since 2007. The defense struggled for the first half of the year as they adjusted to life without Suggs, and Owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged Thursday that losing Suggs was an even tougher setback than they initially realized.

"The one thing that I think I underestimated was when Suggs went down in Week 1," Bisciotti said. "Now, at the end of the year, I think I didn't come close to understanding the impact."

Bisciotti pointed out how losing Suggs had a ripple effect throughout the defense.

Fellow outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil went from 17 sacks in 2014 when playing alongside Suggs, to six in 2015. Opposing offensive coordinators could then give Dumervil more attention to keep him out of the backfield, and the Ravens couldn't use him as a true pass-rush specialist.

The role for rookie outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith also changed because the Ravens couldn't put him in the interior rush spot like they used Pernell McPhee the previous year.

The Ravens went from 49 team sacks in 2014 to 37 in 2015.

Without having a premiere pass rush, quarterbacks had more time to pick apart the secondary. That led to big plays and then put more pressure on the offense to keep up the scoring pace.    

"It was the biggest domino effect of losing one guy," Bisciotti said. "If anybody in this league said, 'If we lost Joe Flacco in Week 1, where would we be?'We'd say, 'Not good.'

"If you had said, 'What one guy can't you afford to lose on defense?' I think most of you would have said, 'Suggs.' I don't know that, but if you didn't, I think you can look back and say we could have lost anybody on that defense in Week 1 other than Suggs, and it wouldn't have had the kind of trickle-down effect that it had on our whole defense. I just think you have to appreciate that."

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