Terrell Suggs has now been in the NFL for nine seasons.
His list of accomplishments in that time is pretty lengthy. The outside linebacker was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year back in 2003. He’s made it to four Pro Bowls, is the Ravens’ all-time career sack leader and through just 11 games, he’s already been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season.
But Suggs hasn’t yet won a Super Bowl in his NFL career. And as the years tick away, he’s realizing his chances of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy are getting slimmer.
“My opportunity to achieving that football immortality, that greatness, the window, let’s be honest, is not as wide as it was when I first started when I was 20,” Suggs said. “I only play for one reason and for one thing only, and that’s to win the Super Bowl. Second (is) to win the division. No. 1 overall (is to win) the Super Bowl.
“To be totally honest with you, I think as you climb years in this league ... I’m not that old, but I’m not going to be 29 forever. When I first got here, I was 20. Then we made a run in ‘06, I was 23, and now I am 29. We have a good chance to make a run at it.”
Suggs is known as a jokester. You might have heard.
He wears punter Sam Koch’s tight-fitting jersey out to practice on a regular basis. He plays pranks on his teammates and dances around on the field between plays. He introduces himself as “Sizzle” from “Ball So Hard University” during pregame intros on “Sunday Night Football.”
But those around Ravens headquarters are equally familiar with Suggs’ other side. The nine-year pro is one of the most intense competitors you’ll find, and when you read quotes like the ones above or watch him on the sidelines after a loss, you can tell how important winning is to him.
Suggs’ admittedly sub-par 2009 season frustrated him to no end, especially when some made the claim that he’d lost his fire that year after signing a contract which made him the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history.
He came back the next season with a chip on his shoulder and a renewed sense of focus. Suggs recorded a team-high 11 sacks last year, which was his first double-digit sack total in a season since 2004. He’s followed that up with an even more impressive 2011 campaign in which he’s already notched nine sacks, four passes defensed, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Suggs will always have fun on the football field, but when it comes down to it, he wants to win as much as anyone. And as playoff time nears, Suggs’ demeanor will slowly start to change and his competitive side will begin to dwarf all the jokes and laughter.
“You see the playfulness, but the seriousness is there,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “And for a guy to be able to balance the fun part with just a real strong desire to be the best in the league at what he does. ...
“He’s highly motivated, you can tell by the way he works and the way he leads. It’s been really nice to see it pay off statistically for him. But as far as all that goes, I don’t think he cares. I think he just wants to play the best he can next week.”
That’s the mentality Suggs will have for the rest of this season. After all, until he gets that first Super Bowl, the next week is always the most important one.