Suggs claims he was a peacemaker

PHOENIX -- Jurors in the assault trial of Baltimore Ravens'
linebacker Terrell Suggs heard conflicting accounts Wednesday of
the player's role in a fight two years ago outside a three-on-three
basketball tournament.

Prosecutors said Suggs punched an old friend from high school
and held another man while another friend used a piece of
reinforced rod to strike him after the tournament at Phoenix
Municipal Stadium.

Suggs' attorney said his client played the role of peacemaker by
putting his linebacker profile in between the two groups of men
brawling outside the stadium.

The NFL player is charged with two counts of felony assault
stemming from the fight on March 29, 2003. Suggs, who set an NCAA
record with 24 sacks in 2002 at Arizona State University, was an
NFL prospect at the time of the fight.

Also on trial were Suggs' younger brother, 18-year-old Donald
Suggs, and two other men. Donald Suggs is accused of using a
baseball bat during the fight.

During opening statements Wednesday, prosecutor Elizabeth
Gilbert said Suggs and his friends surrounded and attacked a group
of young men who were mouthing off at them.

"They didn't want to get into a fight because they were
outsized and Donald had a bat," the prosecutor said.

Terrell Suggs' attorney, Larry Kazan, said his client only
fought back after being hit in the head with a metal rebar rod.

"Terrell Suggs put himself in a position between all of them
and attempted to act as the peacemaker," Kazan said. "All Terrell
did was try to keep a fight from happening."

Kazan wasted no time trying to cast doubt on Suggs' accusers,
telling jurors that Suggs' old high school friend had a felony

He also suggested money as a motive for the assault complaint,
saying that Suggs' accusers delayed fully reporting the incident to
police until they had gotten attorneys and threatened to seek
millions in compensation from the NFL player in civil court.

Prosecutors had offered Suggs, his brother and the other two men
a deal that involved no jail time, but the men rejected it. The
deal, according to attorneys, would have required all four men to
accept it.

"Obviously, they feel they're not guilty, and that's why we're
here today," Gilbert said.

The case was expected to last about two weeks. Prosecutors said
they would introduce pictures of the fight that were taken by a
concession stand worker at the tournament.

Defense attorneys plan to call others who witnessed the fight
along with football coaches from Suggs' high school, Arizona State
and from the Ravens to testify about the player's character.