Terrell Suggs on back nine of career, but still a leader on Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Entering his 13th season in the NFL, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs acknowledges he's on the "back nine of his career."

Still, there is no question he is the leader of Baltimore's defense.

"Terrell Suggs is definitely a huge part of this team, huge leader on this team," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "Emotional leader, vocal leader. Great football player."

Suggs was surprised the Ravens traded veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to the Lions during the offseason. Ngata was a stalwart for nine seasons after being a first-round pick out of Oregon in 2006.

Nonetheless, Suggs expects another big season for the defense.

"I thought he was going to be one of those guys that gets to retire as a Raven," Suggs said. "But it didn't happen that way. It's unfortunate, but he's still a great player. He's going to do some good things for Detroit. But we've got capable guys here. We get a chance to let Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan to come into their own."

The Ravens had the second-most sacks (49, tied with Philadelphia), the second-best red zone defense and allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (88.3) in the league last season.

Suggs was second on the team with 12 sacks behind fellow linebacker and Pro-Bowl pick Elvis Dumervil, who set the single-season franchise record with 17. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley also had a big season and was the NFL’s only player to post at least 125 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

At age 32, Suggs is not worried about how he might perform on the field.

"I'm just going to be myself," Suggs said. "I'm going to just be Sizz and hopefully the guys will follow my lead and we're going to do great things. We have tremendous talent. We have a lot of guys. This team is definitely going to be special. It all starts at minicamp."

Dumervil doesn't see Suggs slowing down this season. He called Suggs a "smart player" who will be able to be effective even if his physical skills start to diminish a bit.

"You have to respect what he's done," Dumervil said. "Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl champion, over 100 sacks. To me, that's a Hall of Fame-type criteria. He's been playing for 13 years. I'm sure he has some really good insight."

Suggs did admit he's not at his "fighting weight" as he spent the offseason letting his body heal from last season.

"Usually around this time I'm ready to go," he said. "I didn't want to stress about anything coming in. I just kind of wanted to let my body heal, take a little time. I think come July I'll be ready to go. I'm definitely not out of shape. I can participate in practice without getting hurt, without getting tired. But I'm definitely not at my fighting weight. I'm at my walk-around weight.

"This is year 13 for me. I can't really be stressing. I used to always be, 'I've got to be ready by minicamp.' It used to weigh on me. It used to bother me. I didn't want to let it bother me. At 13 (seasons), I owe it to myself to kind of just pace yourself. That way, when you come down to the tail end of the season, week 9, week 10, I've still got something left in the tank. I'm trying to pace myself and not do too much right now."