Terrell Suggs is a character, plain and simple. He's a villain to opponents (a role he treasures) and a jokester with his teammates.
But when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left last year, Suggs knew there was a gap in leadership, and he tried to fill it.
Suggs was much more serious last year, at least in front of the media. Yes, he still made comments on the football field, there was still some trash talk, but something was different.
Now a year later, Suggs has a different outlook on how he should lead. Asked whether he will be having more fun this year, Suggs flashed a big, toothy smile.
"Maybe," he said.
"I think the thing we can learn from last year with those guys not being here was that they were once-in-a-lifetime guys. All we can be is ourselves. They're not going to come walking through the door to help us win another championship. All you can be is yourself, and that should be enough."
Suggs was asked whether it was difficult last year for him to accept that leadership role.
"Maybe," he said. "For me, I was more focused on losing them from a brother standpoint, not a football standpoint. Not having those older guys around the building was weird. It transpired onto the field, not having those guys there."
Last year, all the questions over the summer were about how the Ravens would adjust without Lewis or Reed. The players tried to shake it off, saying they would be fine.
Suggs saying it carried over to the field was the first public acknowledgement of that. In a radio interview in May, Head Coach John Harbaugh also talked about it. Harbaugh was asked whether he missed Lewis and Reed more on the field or off it.
"You never mind when guys make great plays, and those guys made great plays throughout," Harbaugh said. "[But] I think the other part is even the bigger thing – the leadership, the wisdom, the passion, the locker room conversations. They have guys that, as a coach, I don't necessarily even know about, that they're steering guys in the right direction. Other guys have to move into those roles, but those two guys are pretty unique."
You can't exactly replace guys like that, as Suggs acknowledged.
"There's nobody ever in the history of the NFL that's going to do it like [Lewis]," Suggs said, adding that nobody should even try. "You've just got to be yourself and however you choose to be, that's how you're going to do it."
In addition to Suggs, the defense has other leadership candidates like defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty, inside linebacker Daryl Smith and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Ngata and Smith are on the quieter side, however.
"Haloti is not going to change his personality," Harbaugh said. "I have always felt like he was a great leader according to his personality. He works hard and he talks to guys. He'll continue to do what he's always done. If he feels like he needs to talk a little more, it would be great."
Ngata does think he'll try to change slightly.
"I probably have to get out of my comfort zone and speak up more," he said.
Dumervil plans on speaking up more too. He was in his first year with the team after coming from the Broncos last year, and didn't want to overstep his bounds.
"I'm going to be a lot more vocal for us," Dumervil said earlier this month. "I'm going to be a lot more hands on. I have to do more. I'm excited to embrace that role."
In terms of leadership on the offensive side of the ball, Suggs pointed to several players: wide receiver Torrey Smith, quarterback Joe Flacco and Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda.
The newcomer to that group is wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., who showed his fire on Wednesday when he got into a tussle with cornerback Lardarius Webb. Suggs approved.
"Love him. You've seen the fire," Suggs said. "That's what you kind of need in purple. You need a fiery guy like that, not just on defense, but on offense as well. I'm glad he's on my team."