Saturday, April 26, 2003
After restless night, things work out for Suggs
By Len Pasquarelli
NEW YORK -- In the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, out of a restless sleep in which he tossed and turned over virtually every inch of his mattress, Terrell Suggs bolted upright in his hotel room and began considering his options.With the kind of knot in his stomach he typically inflicts on most opposing offensive left tackles, and the sinking suspicion that his draft status might be like a junk bond on nearby Wall Street, the standout Arizona State defensive end seriously considered packing his bags and bolting. At about the same time, agent Gary Wichard, who had just arrived on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles, was pondering a similar strategy for his client.
"And then we just figured, 'You know what? He's just too good a player not to be taken in the top 10.' And he decided to stick around and just see how it all played out," said Wichard.After about 90 nerve-wrenching minutes for Suggs and Wichard in the backstage "green room," where prospects sit with their family members and friends as their futures are determined, things played out nicely, indeed. Thanks in part to a botched trade attempt by Baltimore, which was trying to move to the No. 7 overall slot to choose Byron Leftwich, Suggs fell into the Ravens' laps. And while Ravens officials were somewhat miffed at a trade-up effort that failed when the clock ran out on them, no one was disappointed at the prospects of having Suggs roaring in off the edge, and pestering enemy passers from the team's 3-4 scheme. Nor was Suggs. Relieved that his vigil had ended, he nearly hugging the air out of his mother. As a bonus, he'll be reunited with former Arizona State teammate Todd Heap, the Ravens' emerging tight end. And he'll have the chance to line up a few steps to the right of Ray Lewis. "That's a team that loves to play defense," said Suggs. "I mean, Ray Lewis sets the tone for everyone, and I think I can relate pretty good to what they do. I'm not going to sit here and make any kinds of (boasts), or take shots at the teams who passed on me, but this whole experience has put a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I'm looking forward to lining up with the guys they have there on defense." In the past three seasons, Suggs notched 44 sacks, including a Division-I record 24 sacks in 2002. He also had 65½ tackles for losses. The Ravens registered just 33 sacks last season, with Peter Boulware getting a team-best seven. Just nine teams had fewer sacks for the year. With defensive end Michael McCrary all but certain to retire and no real sack threat among incumbent linemen -- true front four players accounted for only 13 sacks for the Ravens in 2002 -- Suggs is a terrific fit. Just like Boulware, he can rush from a two-point stance, standing up, or put his hand on the ground in the three-point stance. The Ravens won't worry for now where or how to play Suggs, or fret over the similarities between he and Boulware, and instead will focus on the fact they acquired a prospect who was far and away the premier sack man in the lottery. "When you have good players," said general manager Ozzie Newsome, "you find ways to use them. Believe me, we'll figure out a way to get Terrell onto the field, and allow him to do what he does best." For weeks, Suggs had reiterated that he hoped to be selected by the Arizona Cardinals, because he would have been able to play in the same city where he performed as a collegian. The Cardinals strongly considered taking Suggs with the sixth overall choice but, as had been predicted in the days leading up to Saturday, they dealt back with New Orleans for a pair of first-rounders.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.