Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs.
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Terrell Suggs turns 34 in October and is coming off his second Achilles tear. But don’t tell him the end is nigh: few still embrace football’s raw brutality like the Ravens’ modern-day gladiator

By Peter King
September 08, 2016

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Terrell Suggs has this problem: age. Age, and his Achilles. Prior to the 2012 season, the six-time Pro Bowler tore his left Achilles and missed eight games that year. In the Ravens’ opener last season, the pass rusher tore it again, missing the last 15 games. He turns 34 in October, and is just 11 months removed from his second Achilles surgery. He’s in the autumn of his football years. Missing 23 games in those two seasons makes it easy for the critics (realists?) to figure the glory days are over. And they may be. And he hears it.

“I actually love the doubters,” Suggs says on a hot summer day during training camp. “The doubters help me.”

Ray Lewis is gone, and so are Ed Reed, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata, and Bart Scott. On the defensive side of the ball, other than Suggs, there’s not a soul who was on this team in 2008, when the Ravens and Steelers played three cage matches to determine the best team in the AFC. “It’s different,” Suggs says. “But it’s still football.” In a sitdown with The MMQB, Suggs kicked back and called it like he saw it. No one in the NFL wants to promote the brutality of the game anymore, but Suggs loves it—and he knows there’s no sense in playing it down.

On tearing his Achilles twice

“My first reaction was disbelief. Absolute disbelief that I did it again. Man, how is this possible? After the first one, the doctor told me there’s a 98, 99 percent chance it won’t happen again. This time, the doctor, that day last September it happened, said, ‘No, Sizzle, you popped it again.’ Imagine you work so hard to get back the first time, and you’re OK, and then, in the first game of a season, you do it again, and you know what hell you’re going to have to go through. Maybe I shouldn’t be this way now, but I’ve got faith it’ll be fine.”

On rehabbing a torn Achilles

“You know what that is, right? You just lay there. You literally can’t do anything but lay there. It is the most boring thing in the history of the world, the most agonizing three months of your life. I hated it. Laying there. Just laying there. Three months. You’re in bed. You can’t stand or walk. One good thing is you catch up on being a dad. But I can’t think of anything else good. Plus you gain weight. I got the biggest I’ve ever been.”

How big?

“I will never tell.”

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Moral of the Achilles tears, if there is one

“It’s living proof Superman does get tired. Sometime you gotta be Clark Kent.”

On which version of Suggs will be on the field starting this Sunday

“All of me. All of me. Otherwise, what am I doing here? I want people to remember me at my peak. My expectation is to come back and be Sizzle.”

On the Steelers

“It’s like I am a whole other person during Steeler week. It doesn’t matter what kind of season both teams are having, it’s f---ing Steeler week. This is the Super Bowl. If you only win one, you better win this one.”

Hatred? Respect?

“Both. There definitely is. You look at it like this, and I’m not comparing us to this, but just using it as an example. What would Muhammad Ali be without Joe Frazier? What would Michael Jordan be without the Pistons? Everybody has this foe that changes you! Me coming out of college, I wasn’t a player that could go play the Steelers two or three times a year and we gonna go blow for blow. But I came to an organization that was about smashmouth football, that was about stopping the run. The number one thing that we say every year when we come in here is: We are going to beat the Steelers. There is definitely a respect there. We can’t even joke around here during Steeler week. When I first got here, I had football gods with me and I saw how they approached the game. Like Ray Lewis, he did everything extra. I’m surprised the guy didn’t sleep here.”

On the brutality of Steelers-Ravens

“We’re modern-day gladiators. People don’t understand the Roman Coliseum … you didn’t just fight man on man, you fought whatever came out that f---ing tunnel. They fought bears and lions and s---. People don’t know that, people think it was just man on man and they fought to the death. No, sometimes they had to fight a lion or a bear with whatever they gave you! The first time you play in these stadiums, it’s intimidating. You’re a little 21- or 22-year-old kid and everybody hates you. Always feel that the most in Pittsburgh.”

On Hines Ward

(Now Suggs is getting worked up.)

“At one time, to me, there was not a bigger villain than Hines Ward. I hated this Hines Ward! I never even really went up against him. I hated him, because he was bringing it. I don’t remember a Steelers game where everybody didn’t have a little bit of a tight ass until that sh-- started flying.”

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

The Mike Tyson influence

“I remember Mike Tyson saying something like, I’m nervous before every fight, because I feel like this guy is gonna kill me. So I used it, and said, ‘F--- it, I’m going to kill them!’ That’s how it is every time against Pittsburgh, you got to swallow, spit, like … The kickoff is so … the anticipation is killing you. It’s a very intense game. The whole week they’re saying BS in the press. I remember one year I just wore a shirt that said Hate Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, they turn you into another player, they make me raise my level. In ’08, they beat us three times! Three times! We played three times and your rival beats you three times. And they all came down to last possession, and it just sucked.”

On the rivalry in 2016, with so many of the big names gone

“Times change. It’s different. It’s OK. We gotta teach the young guys what it means. The good old days, back in the day, it got personal. Like, we had to remember if we saw each other in the halls, that was just a game, that was one game. We ain’t gonna get in no street fight out here, especially with a lot of them and a lot of us going to the Pro Bowl at the same time. That was uncomfortable. If you’ve ever seen two fighters see each other after they fought, it was just like, it’s going to go one of two ways. We’re going to shake hands or we’re going to start a f---ing fight. It’s that tension, but then everybody starts drinking mai tais and being with your family out there so it’s OK, I guess. But there’s tension. Then it’s like, we’re in Hawaii. Relax. Relax. It’s tough. But relax.”

On football

“I mean, what’s better than this? Honestly! I’ve always been, you know, not a violent confrontational person, but I want to be physical. I want to play football. I love competition out there. Me and [filmmaker] Harvey Weinstein, we have the best jobs in the world. When I am done doing this, I’m going to go do that. I ain’t in no hurry. Whenever I walk away, I want to leave with no regrets. I’m more Terrell Suggs here than I am anywhere else in my life. I’ve been a football player since I was 8. Whenever you start to take football for granted, something like that will happen. I didn’t know I would really miss football until I popped my Achilles. And then I was like, I can’t believe I’m not playing football right now, this isn’t for me. This isn’t for me.”

On his case for the Hall of Fame

“There isn’t one yet. I think the only way I can solidify that is if I get another ring. If I get another ring, we can talk about it, but until then I think there is work to be done. I still have a lot of things that I want to do. Everybody forgets that I was 20 years old when I walked in here. Usually people come in and they are 23, 22 and now they are 36, 37, 38. I’m 33 years old, you know what I’m saying? I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m 33.”

On the Tom Brady suspension

“My honest opinion: it’s so old. What is it, two years old? They made a judgment on it then. That should have been the end of it.”

On LeBron James

“His first game with the Heat in Miami, he looks over a sees me and said, ‘Sizzle!’ He didn’t say Suggs, he said, ‘Sizzle!’ And I was like, ‘Oh shoot, whaddup?’ He showed me love and then my girl was like, ‘Can I take a picture with you?’ So I took a picture, so that was like the first time I actually knew that he knew who I was. Ever since then he would come to Phoenix [Suggs’ offseason home] and we would run into each other and it would just be a nice little meet and greet and we would go on about our day. But that was probably my LeBron moment right there.”

On the fate of football

“I’m not worried about it. My honest opinion on it is if my boy wants to play football, I’m going to let him. This is what we signed up for. Now, if a guy is having severe issues after he is done playing, yes, the NFL should pay for his treatment. Just like any other business or organization that you give benefits to your workers. If they get hurt on the job, you should be accountable for that. Ever since this stuff has come out, my mom has gotten scared, my girlfriend, she’s scared. I’m like, look, I signed up for this. I didn’t sign up so when I’m done playing I’ve got bad knees and a bad hip and my heads a little messed up. I didn’t sign up for the NFL not to assist me in that. If it is a legit case, the NFL should be accountable for it. They have a system you have to play X amount of years, so I think if a guy plays seven or eight years in the NFL and he has a bad hip, it’s only right to help, it’s a moral issue.”

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