Barnes, Jones trying to fill Suggs' shoes

WESTMINSTER -- The Baltimore Ravens' defensive huddle took on an unusual look and a much quieter tone Friday. That's because the trash-talking, quarterback-sacking presence of two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs remains missing from the picture.

With the unsigned franchise player skipping training camp after the team was unable to sign him to a contract extension prior to an NFL deadline last week, the Ravens are grooming young linebackers Antwan Barnes and Edgar Jones in his place.

Although team officials are high on both second-year players, Suggs' absence represents a major subtraction from a defense that he traditionally leads in sacks.

"Well, he knows how we all feel and obviously we would love to have him out here," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "Knowing Suggs, I'm sure he can't stand it. I'm sure that eventually he'll be out here.

"It's got to be hard because he's got to be chomping at the bit to get out here because he enjoys the game. I would be surprised if it's too much longer."

Suggs is contemplating skipping the entire camp. Under NFL rules, the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year can't incur any financial penalties for this work stoppage because he has yet to sign his $8.47 million one-year tender.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made it clear that the team intends20to retain Suggs in the future. Under collective bargaining agreement rules governing franchise players, though, no deals can be struck until after the season.

It's believed that Suggs is seeking assurances that the Ravens won't franchise him again.

"Whatever Suggs is dealing with, he has to deal with," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We will be waiting for him when we gets back."

Meanwhile, Barnes and Jones are making the most of their opportunity: chasing quarterbacks, tackling running backs and learning the subtleties of pass coverage.

During the first full-team day of practice, both performed well with Barnes taking most of the snaps with the first-string.

"Obviously, we would like to have Suggs out there, but, with him not being there, it allows these two young guys to get a ton of work," Ryan said. "They're making mistakes, and that's okay at this time, but you go out and you get better and you hope they don't make the same mistakes the following practice. You can't buy experience."

In five NFL seasons, Suggs has 45 sacks to rank third in franchise history. He leads the Ravens with 17 forced fumbles and ranks second with nine fumble recoveries.

Despite the fact that Suggs isn't sweating it out with them in the heat as he opts instead to work out with a personal trainer on the West Coast, his teammates remain supportive of him during this business stalemate between the Ravens and Suggs' agent, Gary Wichard.

"He earns every bit of what he wants," Barnes said. "His record speaks for itself. He's done it out on the field. Whatever he wants, he should get it.

"I'm behind him 100 percent. I'm just ready for him to come back out here where he belongs. He's a Raven, so he'll be out here soon."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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