Suggs joins Ravens' Pro Bowl fraternity

OWINGS MILLS -- When Terrell Suggs walks up the hallway adjacent to the locker room in the Baltimore Ravens' training complex next year, he'll see himself immortalized on the wall alongside franchise fixtures such as linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.

The second-year outside linebacker was initiated into the Ravens' Pro Bowl fraternity Wednesday, joining four teammates who represented the AFC a year ago.

"Every day, that's the first thing we see when we walk in the building," Suggs said. "Finally, next year I get to walk in and see my face up there." Suggs was named to his first Pro Bowl in balloting split between fans, players and coaches, selected to the NFL's exclusive all-star team along with Lewis, Ogden, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister.

For last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, it was validation of his emerging status as a pass rusher and his promotion to an every-down linebacker. Suggs was a situational rusher last season, acting primarily as a rush end on third downs and had a dozen sacks.

This season, Suggs, 22, has registered 9 1/2 sacks this year, tying him for third in the AFC. He has also recorded 61 tackles, recovering two fumbles and forcing one.

"I didn't think I was going to go this year, for the simple fact that I didn't go last year," Suggs said. "I thought it was just a popularity contest, and I didn't think I was that popular yet.

"I think that I showed I can play the linebacker position. I think the work that I put in was noticed. Man, it hasn't hit home yet. It's very special."

For Ogden, this is his eighth consecutive invitation to the NFL's annual all-star game in Hawaii. That's a team record, while Lewis, is making his seventh appearance.

For most players, making the Pro Bowl once is a rite of passage that tends to be repeated by healthy status and consistency.

Ogden missed four games due to hamstring and knee injuries and did allow two sacks to Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney in a 20-10 loss last week. However, he's still regarded as the most dominant blocker in the league.

"We like to refer to it as the Jonathan Ogden Invitational, as opposed to the Pro Bowl," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "As we know, the Pro Bowl also has sort of a cumulative presence, which is right, to a degree."

Lewis, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, leads the Ravens with 184 tackles. Last season, he intercepted a team-high six passes, but Reed has made those game-changing plays this season.

Lewis is still acknowledged as the unquestioned leader of a defense that ranks sixth overall and fourth in points allowed per contest. The only years Lewis didn't make the Pro Bowl was as a rookie in 1996 and in 2002 when he was limited to five games because of a shoulder injury.

"It's the same feeling now," said Lewis, who was selected in his second season in the NFL like Suggs. "Every year, you go out and you always want the respect of your peers, the respect of your fans, the respect of your coaches and opposing coaches. Anytime you gain that respect from all three aspects, you have to be overwhelmed."

Apparently not if you're Reed, though.

Reed leads the NFL in eight interceptions and is the leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Walking past the plaques of Pro Bowl selections toward the team cafeteria, Reed pulled his sweatshirt hood over his head and declined an interview request bout being a repeat selection. "The Pro Bowl doesn't make me," said Reed, who has scored twice on defense and broke the NFL record for longest interception return with a 106-yard sprint to seal a win over the Cleveland Browns. Unlike Reed, who has raised his level of play, McAlister hasn't had as impressive a season as last year when he shut down most of the league's elite wide receivers. This season, McAlister has been noticeably torched by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison in single coverage.

He skipped training camp to protest being assigned the restrictive franchise tag, and signed a lucrative contract extension in October.

McAlister has had his moments, though, returning Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's interception for a touchdown and scoring on a fumble recovery after a Reed interception against the Bengals.

He has recovered two fumbles, deflected seven passes and recorded 39 tackles. McAlister said he wasn't certain he would be named to the team again.

"I didn't think so," McAlister said. "You see guys that get in, they stay in. It's hard to kick guys out unless you kick yourself out."

Veteran kicker Matt Stover was named as a first alternate. He ranks second in the AFC in field-goal percentage (92.9) and third in points scored (104).

Tight end Todd Heap, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, was passed over after missing nine games with a sprained ankle. Outside linebacker Peter Boulware, a four-time choice, didn't make it after missing the entire season with knee and toe injuries.

And outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, a special-teams selection in 2003, didn't make the team primarily because he was promoted to the starting defensive lineup and didn't have the same kick coverage duties.

"Obviously, this season didn't turn out the way I had hoped," Heap said. "You learn something from every game, every season. Obviously, it gives you things you know you need to work on."

Suggs has performed a series of flamboyant signature dances following sacks, mirroring moves he learns from movies like "You Got Served." He said he doesn't have any special moves planned yet for the Pro Bowl.

He's prepping for another type of gymnastics: bankrolling his family to join him in Hawaii along with teammates who are quite particular about their accommodations.

"They've been telling me what hotels they want and what they want in their hotels and what kind of plane tickets they want: first-class," Suggs said. "I've got to be extra critical on myself now, guys. I'm a Pro Bowler now."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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