Suggs wins defensive rookie honors
Suggs, an outside linebacker with a pass-rushing burst reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor, had 12 sacks out of a 3-4 alignment in which he often served as an end. His skills at pressuring quarterbacks earned him 23 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
That beat Dallas cornerback Terence Newman, who had 15 votes.
"Every rookie in the NFL knows it's hard to come into the league and perform good enough to get an award for it," Suggs said. "This has been a really great year, and I'm hoping to finish it real strong.
"I'm kind of overwhelmed with the whole thing. I'm just taking it in right now. It's a great thing."
Suggs was the 10th overall pick in April's draft, dropping a few slots when he didn't run as quickly as expected in private workouts. But he was a pass-rushing force at Arizona State, setting a Division I-A record with 24 sacks in 2002, and he carried that talent right into the pros.
"He's a bright kid," Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "Terrell's still got a lot of growing up to do, but he learns quickly, has a tremendous passion for football and isn't intimidated by the pro game."
Why should he be? He's playing on one of the league's most intimidating defenses, alongside linebackers Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Ed Hartwell. Had Boulware not been sidelined last Sunday against Pittsburgh, Suggs would have been a backup the entire year.
But sacks are only part of the job -- a big part, obviously -- and Suggs is eager to improve other areas of his game.
"I've gotten more confidence as a player, and my pass coverage has come together," he said. "I'm playing well enough now that they're confident enough to throw me out there on first and second downs. It took a long time, but I'm getting it now."
Newman, the fifth overall choice in the draft, was followed in the voting by Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett with six votes. Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams received three, Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman got two, and New England safety Eugene Wilson received one.
Suggs is the second Ravens linebacker to win the award; Boulware got it in 1997.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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