Time for Suggs to step up as a leader

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has long referred to Ray Lewis as the team's general and Ed Reed as the lieutenant. When asked about his title, he considered himself the captain.

Well, it's time for Suggs to move up a few ranks. With Reed reaching an agreement with Houston and Lewis enjoying retirement, Suggs has to step up to be the leader of the defense.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti expects Suggs to take charge, telling the team's website: "By virtue of his patience and humility in that situation, I think that people might not know what a great leader he is." He added, "There’s one thing about Terrell that I admire more than anything. No. 1, he’s continued to mature his entire career being here."

Suggs joined the Ravens in 2003 when he was 20 years old. Now, a decade later, he is the oldest starter on the Ravens, about a month older than defensive lineman Chris Canty. Besides age and experience, Suggs is the best player on the defense along with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. But Ngata is more of a leader by example, which means the verbose Suggs becomes the mouthpiece.

For most of his career, Suggs has been known as the locker room clown. He was the one who provided the comic relief. Suggs, though, has shown leadership skills. Two years ago, he was the one who stepped up his play when Lewis was out with an injury. And last season, when Lewis was hurt again, Suggs surprised everyone by returning in Week 7 just six months removed from Achilles surgery. Teammates respect players who repeatedly come through for them. Suggs is also the one who stepped in Lewis' role last season to huddle the team together after warm-ups.

The difference this year for Suggs is the leadership role isn't a temporary one. Lewis and Reed are gone. It's his turn to show what he learned from them and pass that along to this next generation of Ravens defense.