More subdued Suggs has his game-face on

OWINGS MILLS -- Terrell Suggs' football repertoire and fun-loving reputation used to be defined by celebratory dance moves taken straight out of the movies. Instead of repeating his finest renditions inspired by "You Got Served" following a sack, the Baltimore Ravens' defensive end has morphed into a more mature, albeit less flamboyant pass rusher.

Nearly two months after his 24th birthday, Suggs is no longer as prone to making bold pronouncements or taunting fallen quarterbacks. He's still having fun. He's just not as self-absorbed about it anymore as "T-Sizzles" has taken on a more blue-collar, low-key approach that fits in well with the hard-nosed style of the NFL's second-ranked defense.
After sacks, whether it's by him or from teammates like defensive end Trevor Pryce, Suggs is the picture of giddy jubilation. "He's got his head on straight," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "I love the old ‘Sizzles.' I kind of like those dances, to be honest with you.
"It's about the team. It's not about the individual, even though I had no problem with that. I think we're seeing more of that from all of these guys."
Through a dozen games for Baltimore (9-3), Suggs has two forced fumbles and six sacks to rank third on the team behind outside linebacker Adalius Thomas (nine) and Pryce (8 ½).
"My father always told me to never let anything change your character and who you are as a person," Suggs said. "I'm more grown up now, but I'm still the Terrell the world knows. I'm a happy-go-lucky kid that loves to dance around and have a blast playing football."
With 36 ½ career sacks in four seasons, the Ravens aren't placing any ceiling on Suggs' potential.
Drafted 10th overall in 2003 out of Arizona State, Suggs was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2004 when he registered 10 ½ sacks.
"The sky is the limit for him," said Pryce, 31 and a four-time Pro Bowl selection. "I don't see why it could be anything else. He's a big guy that can run. I don't think people understand how big he is, how physical he is.
"He'll be here, or wherever, for a long time. He's going to play for a long time because he came in so young."
Suggs, who's under contract through the 2007 season, wasn't even old enough to legally drink when he entered the league at age 20, turning 21 on Oct. 11, 2003 the night before a road victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
While playing opposite Pryce, who signed a $25 million contract with Baltimore this spring, Suggs has learned a few things from the 6-foot-5, 286-pound 10th-year professional.
Plus, his production has begun to benefit from the presence of another formidable pass rush threat. Suggs has notched three sacks, including two in a 27-0 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the past three games.
"It's not only helped me, I think it helps the defense as a whole," said Suggs, who had no sacks rushing against rookie left tackle Andrew Whitworth in a 13-7 loss Thursday to the Cincinnati Bengals. "When you've got a dominant rusher who can play defensive end and defensive tackle , I think it opens things for everybody. Personally, I think it helps a lot."
Suggs remains a competitive, playful personality whether it's chasing quarterbacks or slapping clipboards out of the hands of public relations staffers from behind at the team's training complex as if he was forcing a fumble on the field.
During training camp, Suggs credited getting engaged as providing a grounding presence in his life.
When you get drafted, you have to adapt to the NFL life and, of course, you love it," Suggs said. "That lifestyle can get a little tiring and make you want to settle down and focus on the finer things in life like marriage and family.
"I met a great woman and she makes it worth coming out here everyday in this heat to work. I love the life that I have with her."
When last season's 6-10 nosedive to the cellar of the AFC North was over, Suggs was absolutely disgusted. The Ravens missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year, and Suggs wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl as he registered a career-low eight sacks.
Since then, Suggs has made quite a few changes, most notably his work habits and diet. Once on a first-name basis with drive-through cashiers, Suggs swears he hasn't been to his old haunt, Burger King, in a year. He packed on 10 pounds of muscle and lost five percent of his body fat during the offseason.
"I take everything more seriously now," Suggs said.
With 55 tackles, five pass deflections and one fumble recovery, the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder has had a strong season against the run and pass. He has improved his overall game while playing much less at outside linebacker than in the past, operating primarily as a full-time defensive end with his hand down in a three-point stance.
"There's a natural maturity that he's going through," Ryan said. "He's a great player. I don't care what the numbers say.
"He's doing a great job. He's playing consistent. He's playing the run well. With the energy he has, good things are going to happen."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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