Torn Achilles might knock Suggs out for season
OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens have suffered a devastating blow that endangers the AFC North champions' chances of defending their crown.
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon during a workout Saturday in Arizona, an injury that's expected to sideline the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the entire season.
However, Suggs emphasized in an interview with the Times that he expects to return at some point this season.
Suggs, 29, indicated that one doctor already told him that he at least partially tore his Achilles with another diagnosing it as fully torn. He'll undergo surgery to repair the damage Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C. with noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, the Carolina Panthers' team doctor, performing the procedure.
If it's completely torn, then Suggs would be out eight months to a year and would definitely miss the whole season. A partial tear could allow Suggs to return by the middle of the season at the earliest, but it's unclear how long it would take for him to regain his form as one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the game.
"Absolutely, middle to end of October," Suggs wrote in a text message. "Definitely beginning of November. I love how you guys are saying out for the season, just gonna make my comeback that much bigger."
Suggs denied reports that he was injured playing basketball, insisting that he was doing a conditioning workout at his high school in Chandler, Ariz.
"We do a conditioning test every year, and I was practicing it," Suggs wrote. "And I went to stop and turn and I thought I sprained it. Went to doc and said it's a partial tear."
The Ravens are awaiting definitive word on the severity of the injury, but it's already clear that they will need to make contingency plans based on Suggs' absence.
Suggs personally informed the Ravens of the injury on Monday, but they also learned during the NFL draft Saturday that there was a possibility he had gotten hurt. The Ravens drafted Alabama All-American outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw in the second round Friday with their first overall selection.
"We are in contact with Terrell," the Ravens said in a statement. "He will see a specialist early next week, and we'll know more at that time."
Team officials are still holding out some hope that Suggs might play this season, but are prepared for the worst possible news.
Losing an impact player like Suggs is a major blow to the NFL's third-ranked defense from last season.
"It's a big deal," said ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back.
"It's a huge loss. Odds are, he won't be the same player coming off this injury. This kind of injury at his age will keep him out for the year and there's no guarantee he'll come back the way you hope he will with this kind of injury. You need your Achilles to push off and explode."
A five-time Pro Bowl selection and a former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Suggs had three three-sack games last season.
He's the Ravens' all-time leader with 82 1/2 sacks and 29 forced fumbles.
"Suggs' injury is devastating," former Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah stated. "Pass rush ability is obvious, but he's also the best edge setter in the league.
Suggs' ability to convert speed to power is the best in the league. Incredible hand usage as well."
The Ravens' top candidates to replace Suggs are Upshaw and outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who had 5 1/2 sacks as a situational pass rusher last season.
Upshaw and Kruger were slated to compete for the strongside outside linebacker vacancy created by Jarret Johnson signing a $19 million contract with the San Diego Chargers.
Now, Upshaw, a 6-foot-2, 272-pounder who had 9 1/2 sacks last season for the Crimson Tide, is the frontrunner to take over Suggs' rush outside linebacker role.
"I already knew I would be competing for a starting job and contributing to this defense," said Upshaw, who was drafted 35th overall by the Ravens after they traded out of the first round. "I don't look at it like there's more pressure on me. I'm going to play the same way I always have. I'll play wherever they want and need me to line up. Nothing changes for me."
The Ravens will also rely on defensive end Pernell McPhee after he registered six sacks as a rookie to provide a pass rush as well as Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (five sacks). Among the unproven players vying for a role: former second-round outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and outside linebacker Michael McAdoo.
"Upshaw and Kruger are going to be relied on to provide the pass rush," Jeremiah said. "Emergence of McPhee is a huge help."
The Ravens aren't expected to trade for New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora considering their tight salary cap situation ($1.653 million under the NFL salary-cap limit). The best available defensive end-outside linebackers are New England Patriots free agent Andre Carter and Jacksonville Jaguars free agent Matt Roth.
If the Ravens decided to place Suggs on the non-football injury list, they wouldn't be obligated to pay his $4.9 million base salary. However, the Ravens aren't expected to take that measure with one of the most accomplished defensive players in franchise history.
Suggs carries an $11.52 million salary-cap figure.
Suggs has missed just three games in nine seasons for the Ravens since being drafted in the first round out of Arizona State with the 10th overall pick.
Six of nine seasons, Suggs has started every game. Last season, he was a major reason why the Ravens reached the AFC championship game for the second time in four years.
Suggs delivered an upbeat message to his fans via his Twitter account.
"To all my loyal and true fans, know that everything that can and needs to be done will be done," Suggs wrote. "I will be in a Ravens uniform in 2012."
Ravens, Harbaugh to hold youth football clinic at McDaniel on June 16
The Baltimore Ravens will conduct a football clinic on June 16 at McDaniel College hosted by coach John Harbaugh and members of his coaching staff.
Called the Ravens' Football Clinic and presented by Under Armour, the clinic is geared toward Carroll County youth football players ages 6 to 18. Approximately 450 are expected to attend the clinic.
"Our staff is looking forward to the clinic," Harbaugh said. "We'll teach some football, stress some life lessons and have fun."
The Ravens are in the process of finalizing their plans for training camp after announcing last fall that they would hold camp at team headquarters going forward after previously practicing at McDaniel.
The defending AFC North champions are also expected to conduct open practices off-site at M&T Bank Stadium and other venues around the state of Maryland. Owner Steve Bisciotti has stated a desire to hold a practice open to fans at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
McDaniel athletic director Paul Moyer said the private, liberal arts school welcomes having the Ravens back on campus.
"From our perspective, the Ravens have been great partners," Moyer said. "We want to continue that relationship. They've been very supportive of our program and the institution. To have the Ravens back for even a day is a great thing."
"Coaches' clinics are just outstanding. They're all good things that over time we can develop for the college and the community. We feel like it's a huge benefit."
Added McDaniel College vice president of administration and finance Ethan Seidel: "The Ravens told us almost immediately after their announcement that they would move summer training camp that they would try to figure out a way to have an event or two here as well as other locations. I'm sure the younger fans would really enjoy it. The Ravens are a great organization, and we've really enjoyed having them here. We would love to have them back here as much as their schedule allows and we can accomodate them."
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