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Terrell Suggs is Ravens' 'Alpha Male,' and He's Embracing His Role


Mike Wallace is never shy when it comes to trash talking his teammates in practice or letting them know how great he thinks he is.

But when it comes to veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, Wallace defers.

"He is our team leader," Wallace said. "We have a lot of guys that have big voices on the team, but when it comes down to it, he is the alpha male on our team."

Suggs, 34, is going into his 15th season. He's played coy for the last few years when talking about how much longer he plans to play, but he knows his time is nearing an end. And he seems to be taking more time to embrace his role as the team's elder statesman.

Suggs likes to go off to his home in Arizona to spend the offseason months, but he spent this year in Baltimore training during the team's voluntary conditioning program.

Having him in the building sent a message to everyone else on the roster.

"His work ethic has risen a tremendous amount," defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. "You never knew he could do that, but it's gotten better. He's in here, working hard, motivating a lot more, talking to young guys, pulling guys aside. He's digging his roots deeper into the defense and team to be more of a leader. He's leading by example."

Suggs has always been a big presence on and off the field. His booming voice echoes throughout the Under Armour Performance Center, and he's typically chiding someone on the practice field. But he's gone from more of the class clown to student body president, and he understands the younger players are taking notice of everything he does.

"I think you lead by example," Suggs said Wednesday as the Ravens opened training camp. "I'm just going to be Sizzle. I've been around, experienced some things – wins, losses, every game, every kind of way. I'm just going to try to help these younger guys and definitely live up to that Ravens standard."

His teammates have noticed his transformation as well.

Yes, Suggs is often still the player to break the silence with a joke, but he's also just as likely to deliver a message that everyone in the room needs to hear.

"When Sizz says something, everybody respects it, everybody listens," Wallace said. "He won a Super Bowl, has been to multiple Pro Bowls, first-team All Defense, first-team All-Pro. When you have a guy that's been through every single situation – he's been through it all. … When a guy like that talks, you respect him. You listen to everything he has to say."

Suggs has played alongside some of the game's greats, and he's one of the best players in franchise history. He learned from players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas, and he vividly remembers his introduction to the NFL as a 20 year old in 2003.

"I remember a pie in the face," he joked. "It was a star-studded defense, so you just wanted to do your part. We were really good at policing ourselves. You didn't hear it from a coach – you heard it from a peer, somebody that has been respected and revered in this league since the day he's stepped on the field."

Suggs has taken that same approach when it comes to mentoring the young players on today's roster.

Even though he's nearing the end of his career, his play hasn't shown signs of a drop-off. Last year he played through a torn biceps and bone chips in his elbow, but he missed just one game. He still led the team with eight sacks and also racked up 35 tackles, four passes defensed and three forced fumbles.

Suggs has come back from tearing his Achilles in both feet and he's still one of the team's best overall players.

"He's trying to be the greatest player he can be and also bring the defense where it is supposed to be," Williams said.

Suggs will be the team's starting outside linebacker again this season, and he's the last remaining piece from the historic Ravens defenses of old. Even with a championship and lengthy list of accolades throughout his career, Suggs is still operating like he has something to prove.

At the end of his press conference Wednesday, a reporter asked Suggs what he continues to play for.

Suggs quipped, "To do it again." He then winked, and walked off the podium.

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