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Terrell Suggs is more than a pass-rusher

10/9/2013

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' Terrell Suggs is fourth in the NFL with seven sacks. He's had a sack in every game this year and he had three in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 26-23 win in Miami.

But Suggs is more than an elite pass-rusher. He's one of the best all-around linebackers in the NFL.

Here's a trivia question: How many players in the NFL have over 30 tackles and three sacks this season? Just one -- Suggs.

"I don't want to just be known as a pass-rusher," Suggs said. "I want to be known as a defender that can do more than just one thing. I definitely take pride in that. I don't want to just have a lot of sacks. I like to fill up the stat sheet."

The evolution of Suggs has been dramatic. When he came into the league, he had to make the switch from a college defensive end to an NFL outside linebacker. As a 20-year-old rookie, Suggs wasn't ready to be an every-down player. He was still good enough as a pass-rush specialist to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 after recording 12 sacks and six forced fumbles.

Suggs, who turns 31 on Friday, is everywhere on the field these days. Not only is he powering his way past offensive tackles for sacks, but he's running down the line of scrimmage to bring down running backs from behind. The fact that he's only four tackles away from moving into second place on the Ravens' all-time tackles list underscores the impact he makes as a run-stopper.

"He's one of the best guys in the league at his position," said Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who faces Suggs on Sunday. "He proves that every year. You can't let him get off, but that's easier said than done."

Everyone is talking up Suggs' strong start, except for Suggs himself. "It's just five games," he said.

You still get the sense that he's a man on a personal mission. In 2012, about three months removed from being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Suggs tore his Achilles tendon.

It was amazing that he was able to return after missing just eight games, but Suggs would be the first to say he wasn't himself last year. He had four total sacks in 12 games (including playoffs) last season.

Suggs acknowledged Wednesday that he had doubts whether he would ever be the same type of explosive player.

"You've got to stay the course and continue to work at it," Suggs said. "Would I have liked to have a lot earlier in the season? Definitely. But last year is gone."

This year, Suggs has added another responsibility to his full workload -- leader. With Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone, Suggs has taken over as the vocal leader. Like Lewis did for years, Suggs is the one who huddles the team together after warm-ups.

"I don't worry too much about that," Suggs said about being a leader. "I'm just going to be Terrell, I'm going to be myself. Some guys can take from that what they will. That's not our No. 1 goal here. Our No. 1 goal is to win football games."

The Ravens have been winning games because of Suggs' dominating play on defense. He's on pace for 115 tackles and 22 sacks, both of which would be career highs.

"He’s a complete player. Anybody that knows football would agree with that," coach John Harbaugh said. "That’s the great thing about Terrell Suggs. He’s not just a one-dimensional guy, in terms of pass rush. He’s a great pass-rusher but he’s all the other things, too. That’s what makes him a premier player."