OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When the Arizona Cardinals play at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, they bring the No. 1 overall pick of this year’s draft, a future Hall of Fame wide receiver and a Pro Bowl running back.
Still, for Ravens fans, the main attraction coming to M&T Bank Stadium is someone who they’d never thought would be wearing a different uniform.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who played more games for the Ravens than anyone else, returns to Baltimore for a reunion unlike any other. Not only does Suggs become the fifth player in NFL history to face a team for which he played at least 16 seasons, he is the first defender ever to do so.
The pass-rusher affectionately known as “T-Sizzle” will always be known for the leadership and laughter that he brought to Baltimore.
But, for three hours on Sunday, he’ll spark a new emotion.
“It definitely will feel different,” kicker Justin Tucker said. “Growing up and being a part of the Ravens for the last seven-plus years, the Ravens have always had Terrell Suggs on the roster. He’s always been out there. I remember playing Madden in high school. You always see Sizz lined up out there in black and purple. But that’s the nature of the business.”
There have been 83 players who played in at least one game in 17 seasons, with Suggs being the latest to do so. Only four of those players went on to face the team with which they had played for 16 or more seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Brett Favre and Sebastian Janikowski all lined up against their long-time former teams. Suggs is now set for the same comeback route.
In March, when Suggs hit free agency for the first time in his career, the prevailing belief was he would return to Baltimore. Suggs spoke often about how he wanted to be a “Raven for life” and about how the Ravens’ DNA was in his blood.
Owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged he thought Suggs would take less to stay in Baltimore up until the very minute the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Cardinals. What everyone underestimated was Suggs’ desire to play in Arizona, where he played his high school and college football as well as where he lives in the offseason.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who recently saw Suggs wearing his Cardinals jersey on Snapchat. “… It’s not like he left because he hates everybody. It isn’t a nasty reunion. We’re definitely going to welcome him back with an ass-whooping.”
Suggs is the Ravens’ all-time sacks leader. No one, presumably, will ever wear Suggs’ No. 55, an honor only bestowed on past Ravens greats like Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed.
John Harbaugh, who coached Suggs for 11 seasons, said he would maybe give Suggs a hug if he ran into him before the game. In Harbaugh’s view, Suggs is with the Cardinals and the focus has to be on stopping him, not schmoozing him.
“I’m not nostalgic about it right now,” Harbaugh said. “That’s not important to me. It is outside of the game, but it’s the game that matters right now. That’s what I’ll be thinking about, and I’m pretty sure the players feel the same way.”
Even though Harbaugh didn’t want to reminisce, here are some of Suggs’ most memorable moments with the Ravens:
Healthy hatred toward Steelers: Few players loved the rivalry with the Steelers more than Suggs, who once wore a T-shirt that featured a purple raven flipping the bird and the words “Hey Pittsburgh.”
Before the 2008 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, Suggs wanted to play up an injury and put a brace on his shoulder. But a public relations staff member had to stop him before he stepped in front of reporters because he was wearing the harness on the wrong shoulder.
Suggs’ best hits against the Steelers came in a 2011 season-opening win, when Suggs recorded three sacks and delivered another blow after the game. Suggs said of Ben Roethlisberger, “God can have his soul, but his ass belongs to me.”
Malice in his heart?: Suggs’ one-liners are just as memorable as his game-changing plays. In 2005, the Ravens were flagged for a team-record 21 penalties and Suggs was thrown out of the game by referee Mike Carey, who said the seven-time Pro Bowl player had “malice in his heart.”
Suggs later said, “How can I have malice in my heart when I don’t even know what malice means?”
Gladiator mask: Suggs’ best antic came at the start of the 2014 season. After the Ravens lost to the Bengals in the opener, running back Ray Rice was then suspended for the entire year for his domestic assault case.
With Baltimore playing Pittsburgh a few days later on Thursday night, Haloti Ngata told Suggs: “Sizz, you’re the last out of the tunnel and we need you to do something to get us going.”
Suggs replied, “I got this gladiator mask I picked up from Rome.”
The fired-up Ravens defeated the Steelers 26-6, and Suggs was later fined $5,512 for wearing the shiny silver mask during player introductions.
Super prediction: In 2012, Jimmy Smith had bottomed out. The former first-round pick was primarily playing special teams before suffering a sports hernia.
Upset about not playing, Smith remembers Suggs approaching him one day and saying, “You’re going to be the reason that we win the Super Bowl.”
Smith recalls thinking that Suggs was crazy. That is, until Smith made the biggest play of his life in that season’s Super Bowl. He broke up a pass intended for Michael Crabtree that essentially gave the Lombardi Trophy to the Ravens.
“It came to fruition,” Smith said. “He looked at me like, ‘I told you.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Menace at practice: Suggs routinely hijacked Bisciotti’s golf cart and rode it across the fields before the start of practice, crashing it into the blocking dummies. He could always be heard on the field, whether it was ribbing a teammate or singing the “Titanic” theme song.
Tucker often took the brunt of Suggs’ jokes. As Tucker started his approach for a long field goal, Suggs often knelt a few feet behind Tucker and yelled at him.
What would Suggs say? “Nothing I can put on the record,” Tucker said. “… I’ll just say he has a way with words.”
Thigh master: Suggs’ best play came in the 2014 AFC wild-card win against the Steelers in which he picked off Roethlisberger and held on to the interception by pinning the ball between his legs while falling to the ground.
“You’ll never see a greater catch,” Harbaugh said after the game. “We just gave him the game ball for the greatest catch in the history of football. I toss it to him. What happened, do you think? He dropped it. He caught the one that mattered. Clutch.”