Ravens' Suggs smiling and dancing again

WESTMINSTER -- Terrell Suggs can relax enough to smile again, and the fun-loving Baltimore Ravens' pass rusher has absolutely no plans to ever stop. Vindicated by a jury in Arizona that acquitted him of felony aggravated assault charges this summer, the Pro Bowl defender said he feels wiser and happier now that the legal imbroglio in his past.

"When you didn't do anything wrong, and you know you didn't do anything wrong, you have to stand by it," Suggs said Wednesday morning at McDaniel College. "You stand by it no matter what the world or anybody else may think.

"Why plea bargain for something you didn't do? I wasn't going to let them incriminate my name and destroy everything I've worked for."

For Suggs, 22, it was a hard lesson to learn as he dealt with the ramifications from a March, 2003 fight following a basketball tournament in Phoenix in the weeks before the Ravens selected him 10th overall.

Suggs and his brother, Donald, were involved in a fight with former high school friend Jeryme Cook and two other men. Suggs was hit over the head with a tire iron, according to testimony in Maricopa County Superior Court, and defended himself to the point where the 5-foot-11, 140-pound Cook went to the hospital.

"Not matter what, keep your name out of any altercations that happen," Suggs said. "Stay as far away from it as possible. I got dragged into the thing for trying to break the thing up."

The jury believed him and not Cook, who lost the fight, proceeded to press charges against the Suggs' brothers and then allegedly sought hefty financial compensation if he would drop the case.

"Right after it happened, they were like, ‘Give us $2 million or I'm going to the public,'" Suggs said. "I was like, ‘It's already in the public,' but I wouldn't do it anyway.

"I still thought at that point that it could be resolved between us because he was a former friend of mine. They tried to incriminate me and paint this picture of me as a monster and it just became really crazy."

Suggs declined prosecutors' plea bargain offer that would include no jail time and opted to roll the dice at trial. He felt it wasn't a gamble because he was confident in his innocence and didn't want to risk jail time for his brother.

Twelve jurors ultimately justified Suggs' determination to prove he wasn't guilty of a crime and the former Arizona State star was acquitted of all charges.

"Suggs knew he was innocent and everything worked out," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "Terrell is great to be around because he always has got a smile on his face."

Back in a football environment for the first time since the trial, Suggs said he feels rejuvenated and intent on returning to the Pro Bowl for the second time.

He also doesn't plan to change his friendly personality.

"My father always told me to never let anything change who you are as a person, never let anything change your character," Suggs said. "That's the Terrell the world knows, the happy-go-lucky kid that loves to play football and dance around and have a blast playing football."

Through two seasons, the outside linebacker/defensive end has generated 22 ½ sacks.

Suggs often dances over fallen quarterbacks after a sack, including frenetic moves he studies from movies such as "You Got Served."

When asked how many dance routines he has planned for this fall, Suggs replied: "I'm not giving any numbers because that will get offensive tackles to put a target on you. I have never had a year with the Ravens where I didn't have less than double-digit sacks, so we're staying in double-digits. I've got a couple new moves for you all. I'm going to be an entertainer this year."

In the Ravens' shift to the 4-3 and 46 alignments, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Suggs will operate out of both a two-point stance and a three-point stance. He'll primarily be utilized at rush end as the featured pass rusher in Ryan's aggressive schemes.

In the high-risk 46, it's imperative that quarterbacks be pressured quickly because the cornerbacks are typically isolated in man-to-man coverage.

"Everybody on our defense is really athletic and can rush the passer," Suggs said. "It's really just whoever gets there first. The early bird gets the cheese, I mean the early bird gets the worm."

Does Suggs stack up favorably against other prolific pass rushers such as Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor?

Perhaps it's a bit premature to mention L.T. since Suggs is entering his third season and doesn't turn 23 until October, but Ryan said he belongs in elite company with the Indianapolis Colts' Dwight Freeney and Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor. Ryan also groups his protege with former Ravens standout defensive ends Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett.

"Let's give him a few years before we put him in L.T.'s realm, but the sky is the limit for this guy," Ryan said. "He's got so much natural talent. The guy is at tremendous athlete and now he's a complete player.

"The kid is so much fun to coach. We're lucky he slipped to us in the draft."

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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