Ravens' Suggs escapes stress of assault trial

OWINGS MILLS – In an environment free of judges' gavels, lawyers' objections and cross-examination, Terrell Suggs escaped the stress of his impending felony assault trial. The Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl pass rusher gained relief from the legal process in a manner unavailable to most defendants by chasing quarterbacks Tuesday morning at the team's training complex.

For Suggs, who faces two counts of felony aggravated assault in a trial set to begin Monday at Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona, attending minicamp felt more significant than a typical off-season workout.

"Man, I needed to come back and have some fun," Suggs said. "It's been a little crazy off-season for me. I'm just trying to keep my head up. I had to come back and be with my brothers and play football. I never had so much fun at practice in my life."

Suggs' case stems from March 29, 2003 fight at Phoenix Municipal Stadium following a basketball tournament, weeks before the Ravens drafted him with the 10th overall pick of the first round.

Suggs was pondering a change of his not guilty plea according to court officials, but rejected prosecutors' plea bargain offer last month. Suggs, who is listed on the Arizona court's high-profile list, emphasized that he's not concerned about the potential jeopardy of going to trial in a felony case.

"I'm not going to take no plea bargain for something I didn't do," Suggs said. "Because as long as I know the truth of what happened, I know I didn't do anything, why confess to something you didn't do? I didn't want to destroy my name or my family's name."

Authorities are accusing Suggs, 22, of hitting a man with a reinforced metal rod. Suggs' agent, Gary Wichard, has portrayed his client as a "peace-maker," who was "cold-cocked" from behind with a metal bar while law enforcement officials contend that Suggs was the aggressor.

Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed confidence in Suggs' defense.

"I think he came out here as much for the mental aspect as anything, just to get away from some of the concerns he's going to have to deal with next week," Billick said. "We have a great deal of confidence in how that will turn out."

Suggs led the Ravens last season with 10 ½ sacks and was selected to his first Pro Bowl as an outside linebacker in 2004, but is moving back to defensive end for the Ravens' planned shift to the 4-3 and 46 alignments. Through two seasons, the former Arizona State star has generated 22 ½ sacks.

Suggs' pass rushing ability will be featured in new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's schemes. Ryan has described Suggs' projected rush end role as one akin to how his father, Buddy Ryan, employed defensive end Richard Dent with the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears' defense.

"I like it, it's very firm and strict and I get to rush a lot, no pass coverage for me," said Suggs, who said he's far too young to be familiar with the '85 Bears. "It's going to be exciting to see."

Suggs will miss the Ravens' mandatory minicamp next week because of his legal situation, but said he'll make the most of a minicamp that concludes Thursday.

"I definitely won't be here next week because I have to do the whole court thing back in Arizona, but I came here to show my brothers that I'm still with them no matter what is going on," Suggs said. "I had a lot of energy. I was out there running around, even with the new defense, just having a blast."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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