Still two months shy of 32, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs somehow finds himself leading the Baltimore roster in terms of continuous service with the franchise. Suggs is entering his 12th NFL season as a Raven, and the former Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year is now the team’s unquestioned leader on that side of the ball, following the departures of both middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed after the 2012 season. Suggs received a four-year contract extension in February and has a chance to play his entire career in Baltimore. SI.com’s Don Banks chatted with the always-quotable six-time Pro Bowl selection on Sunday afternoon, after a 49ers-Ravens joint workout at Baltimore’s team complex in Owings Mills, Md.
SI.com: You got drafted in the first round by Baltimore in 2003 (10th overall), which makes you the longest tenured Raven at this point. Did you realize you’ve been here longer than any other player in the organization?
Suggs: I guess I did realize that. I’m not the oldest guy on the team [three Ravens are older] but I’ve been here the longest. It kind of happened quickly. It really has. It’s a reminder to not take anything for granted. Given some of the guys we’ve lost the last couple of years, I have been here the longest, but overall it’s been a great 12 years and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
SI.com: Do you feel like the elder statesman around here, like you’re entering your 12th NFL season?
Suggs: I don’t feel like I’ve been in the league 12 years. It’s not like my body’s aching and I’m questioning how much longer I can do this. I feel like I’m in my fifth year.
SI.com: You’ve always been one of this team’s leaders, but without Ed Reed and Ray Lewis around any more, have you assumed even more of the leadership role in the defensive room?
Suggs: We’ve always had a lot of leaders around here, but we’ve got the kind of guys that really lead by doing it more than saying it. Doing the little things, being professionals and always coming ready to work. That’s the type of guys we have. We’re never going to have a more vocal, more emotional leader than Ray Lewis, and people can’t forget that. But the kind of leaders we got here is blue-collar guys. Guys that show up to work every day. Maybe I lead a little more than I did in the past, but we’ve got a lot of guys who lead in different ways and that’s good.
SI.com: You have a linebacking corps that has essentially been rebuilt the last two or three years -- with first-round pick C.J. Mosley drafted this year, veterans Daryl Smith and Elvis Dumervil joining Baltimore in 2013, and Courtney Upshaw selected in 2012 -- where’s the potential for this group?
Suggs: Yeah, we’ve added a lot of different guys the past couple of years, but we’ve still got a lot of talent there, as you can clearly see. I think the sky’s the limit. We go as far as we say we go. It’s all about the work we put into it, because we’ve got a lot of guys who can really play.
SI.com: What have you seen so far from Mosley, the rookie inside linebacker who had a team-high five tackles and a sack in his NFL preseason debut last Thursday night against San Francisco?
Suggs: Oh, he’s very athletic and very smart. He actually reminds me of the guy we’ve been practicing against the past couple days, No. 52 with San Francisco, Mr. [Patrick] Willis. Definitely, because when Willis came into the league, it just clicked for him right away. I definitely see some resemblance with Mosley. Very athletic, intelligence for the game, and a quick study.
SI.com: Where do guys like Upshaw and Pernell McPhee fit into the picture at linebacker?
Suggs: Those guys are bullies. And I mean that like a football bully, on the field, not guys getting bullied in the locker room. These guys are very tough guys and they love to play physical and that’s what we call playing like a Raven. That’s that Ravens persona. It’s a very physical game when you play us and everybody knows that.
SI.com: What was it like to have double vision on the Harbaugh front the past six days, with the 49ers and Ravens conducting joint practices together after playing each other last Thursday night?
Suggs: It’s like a double dose of the brothers. Of course your coach is going to be harder on you than the other coach is, and the other coach is going to go harder on his guys than he goes on you. It’s been a good experience. We were all kind of unsure and uncertain how it was going to go, but I think both teams have been having a blast the last couple days.
SI.com: You ever hear one Harbaugh out on the practice field and mistake the voice for the other one?
Suggs: Nah, we can tell the difference between Harbaughs. We can definitely tell which one is ours.
SI.com: You have a unique vantage point of the Ravens’ new offense, led by coordinator Gary Kubiak. Like what you've seen so far in practice?
Suggs: I love what I see. It seems fun to run but I hate playing against it. Because it’s up-tempo and there are so many angles to watch out for, and so many things to do out of it, and yet it all looks the same coming at you. It’s a very fun offense to run and I already hate trying to figure it out.
SI.com: You open at Cincinnati in Week 1 and then come home to play the Steelers at home on Thursday night in Week 2. Are you going to know a lot about whether this Ravens team can bounce back from last year’s 8-8 non-playoff finish after just five days of the regular season?
Suggs: Yeah, but we’ll be ready. We’ll be ready for both of them. We’ve been playing against them in the division for a long time. I’ve seen them both for 12 years now. We’re very familiar with them, and I’m just glad we get to see them in the first two weeks of the season and get it out of the way.