Typically this time of year is one linebacker Terrell Suggs doesn’t enjoy as the Ravens conclude another off-season program.
Like many veterans, Suggs could do without the formality of organized team activities and mandatory minicamps at the team’s Owings Mills facility weeks before the start of training camp in late July. However, everything changed for the five-time Pro Bowl defender after suffering a partially-torn Achilles tendon in late April.
Now, he wishes he could experience the monotony of taking the field for workouts geared more toward rookies and younger players than a 10th-year linebacker coming off the best season of his career.
“This is a very unfamiliar feeling for me,” Suggs said. “I used to dread this. I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got minicamp.’ Ease us all back and go out in the sun. But now, I’ve never appreciated it so much, because I’ve never had to sit and watch my brothers go to battle without me.”
Instead of thinking about traditional two-a-days and lining up with the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata this summer, Suggs has his own version of training camp. The 29-year-old rehabs every day by working out, rehabbing his foot, resting and icing his foot, and then repeating the process.
Boldly proclaiming on the day his injury become public knowledge on May 3 he planned to return by November at the latest, Suggs must settle for baby steps now. Earlier this week, he longer required the use of crutches as he can now move around with a walking boot on his right foot.
Asked once again on Thursday if he still targeted November at the latest as his time to return to the field for the Ravens, Suggs offered a more measured perspective while still reinforcing the notion that he’ll do what many think he can’t in 2012.
“I am not a doctor, so [November was] just a guess,” Suggs said. “It feels good now, I guess. We’ll know in my progression when I will actually be able to come back. But like I said before when I first got injured, I will be in a Baltimore Ravens uniform in 2012. The only question is when.”
One of the biggest challenges in recovering from such a devastating injury is following the advice of the doctors and training staff and adhering to the schedule put in place. For a player like Suggs who enters this season having missed only three games in the first nine seasons of his NFL player, it’s only natural to want to push the issue when feeling good in the rehabilitation process.
While the rest of the Ravens organization has expressed cautious optimism and support for Suggs’ claim that he’ll return to play this season, they also understand how challenging that task will be and do not want the talented linebacker to put the rest of his career in jeopardy by pushing too far too fast.
“You work hard, but you do it within the boundaries of what you are able to do at the time,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of people who are professional at that. Nothing really needs to be said other than to get back as soon as we can, and part of that is no setback. Professionals take care of that.”
One thing Suggs won’t have to worry about is the organization trying to withhold his base salary this season with him suffering a non-football injury away from the Ravens’ training facility. Suggs once again dismissed reports of him suffering the injury while playing basketball when asked about it on Thursday.
The 6-foot-3 linebacker explained his relationship with the organization was too strong to expect it to go after his 2012 salary, a sentiment shared by Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in comments made last week.
“They’ve always been behind me no matter what was going on or what was happening in my life,” Suggs said. “We’ve got an understanding. I consider this organization my family.”
Suggs’ first public comments about the Achilles injury confirmed once again that no one — including the Ravens’ all-time sacks lead — really knows if he will see the field at some point this fall. But that uncertainty isn’t going to prevent Suggs from trying to do what many consider to be nearly impossible.
For now, he can’t worry about moving past a left tackle or getting to the quarterback as quickly as he can.
The battle is against himself.
“You’ve got to know your body,” Suggs said. “They constantly keep trying to tell me, ‘Rehab and rest. Work as hard as you can.’ Right now, rehab is my football field and until I master it, I won’t be out there. So, I’m definitely trying to become All-Pro at that [as soon as possible].”
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