His voice sounded the same, but Terrell Suggs’ attire looked very strange.
Wearing a red shirt and a black Cardinals hat, Suggs held his introductory press conference Thursday, saying hello to Arizona after saying goodbye to Baltimore.
After 16 seasons as a fixture in the Ravens’ defense, the franchise’s all-time sack leader admitted it was difficult to sign with another team during free agency. However, Suggs also sensed it might be time for change. If he was going to leave Baltimore, it made sense to return to Arizona, where he played high school and college football (Arizona State), and where he has lived during the offseason for years.
“I had to make a decision to come back and play a couple of more years, or whatever I got left,” Suggs said. “I felt like if I wasn’t going to be in a Ravens jersey there’s only one place I was going to be playing, so here we are.”
Suggs reportedly signed a one-year, $7 million contract, but said his decision to leave Baltimore wasn’t strictly about money, and that the Ravens made him a fair offer.
“They made me a handsome offer, but it was just time,” Suggs said. “That organization, that team is very special and dear to me. But so is the Valley of the Sun. It feels good to be wearing Cardinal red now.
“This is home for me. It’s always been my home since 1996. I’ve always lived here in the offseason. I’ve always kind of kept an eye on the team, even all the way from Baltimore. If I wasn’t going to be playing in Baltimore, I was going to be in Cardinal red.”
Suggs recalled how the Cardinals had a chance to draft him with the No. 6 pick in the 2003 draft, but Arizona traded back to No. 17 in a deal with the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens grabbed Suggs with the No. 10 pick, and he became one of the franchise’s all-time greats, a dominant, every-down outside linebacker with 132 ½ career sacks. While Suggs said he wanted the Cardinals to draft him, his 16 years with the Ravens were special.
“It worked out for both organizations,” Suggs said. “I was a young man. I had been kind of catered to and spoiled, coming from Hamilton (high school), going to ASU (Arizona State). It was time to go away from home and become a man. It was necessary. I was disappointed then, but it all worked out in the end.
“It was very difficult to leave a place, or a team that you’ve been part of for so long, for 16 years. Kind of go explore the unknown. But I’m very confident in my decision and feel like I made the right one.”
Suggs said after the season that he wasn’t ready to retire. Until he heard from the Cardinals, he expected to return to the Ravens.
“I wasn’t sure, I kind of felt there was an 80 percent chance that I would still be in Baltimore, but I was realistic with myself,” Suggs said. “There was a possibility I could leave. After weighing my options and after everything that has happened, I just felt if was time to turn the page.”
The Cardinals will visit the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium next season, a game that will surely be emotional for Suggs.
“I am human; I’m pretty sure the week of, it’s going to get a little bit exciting,” Suggs said. “It’s a long way from now, so I ain’t going to worry about it now.”
Here’s something else that could be different for Suggs – his jersey number. Veteran defensive end Chandler Jones wears No. 55 for the Cardinals, and he had 13 sacks last season. Suggs isn’t trying to mess with Jones’ positive karma, so it sounds as if we’ll see Suggs wearing a new number next season. What that number will be, he won’t say.
“That’s his number, he’s been doing great with it, so it’s his,” Suggs said. “I’m going to have to find something else. Do I want to tell y’all now? I have an idea in mind. I think we’ll just wait and unveil it.”
Suggs had seven sacks last season, but just 1 ½ sacks after Week 7. Asked how much he had left at age 36, Suggs smiled.
“I guess we’re going to find out,” he said. “I’m excited to find out. Let’s see.”
Terrell Suggs entertained us all for 16 years. Thanks for the memories, Sizzle.