OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Bouncing around on the sideline during games and dropping hints on his official Twitter account, injured Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has made it clear he’s getting better.
But his potential return this season from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the spring had mostly been discussed by the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year himself, with coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens expressing cautious optimism in support of Suggs’ bold proclamations but never with the same conviction as the 10-year veteran.
That changed Friday when Harbaugh confirmed the linebacker will play this season but admitted he does not have a timetable for his return. Suggs is currently on the reserve physically unable to perform list and cannot return to the practice field until after Week 6.
At that point, Suggs has a three-week window to begin practicing without having to be placed on the 53-man roster. However, the soon-to-be 30-year-old linebacker must be placed on the active roster by the end of that period or the Ravens must place him on season-ending injured reserve. He would be eligible to return to the roster at any point during that window if he’s deemed ready to return immediately after the Ravens’ Week 6 game against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14.
Many have doubted Suggs’ ability to return this season from the devastating injury, but it now appears to be a matter of when instead of if we’ll see his return to action.
“He’s got his target date, and he’s doing well,” said Harbaugh. “The main thing we want to do now is make sure there’s no setback and he continues to get in shape and continues to get stronger. He’s been in every meeting. He’s up to date with the [mental part].”
The physical aspect of his return to the football field will be the most challenging as Suggs hasn’t even done as much as practice since the Ravens’ AFC Championship loss to New England in January. Harbaugh was already beginning to temper any expectations that Suggs will return to action without missing a beat as one of the NFL’s best defensive players.
Playing the rush linebacker spot and often lining up in a three-point stance, Suggs possesses great explosiveness off the edge in firing out of his stance to beat opposing offensive linemen. Medical experts typically say that explosion returns more slowly — and sometimes doesn’t return at all, in some cases — even after a player is cleared to return to football activities.
“Football shape will be a factor,” Harbaugh said. “As soon as he gets on the field, it’s not like he’s going to be back to Defensive Player of the Year form. We need to all understand that. Give him a little space and let him kind of grow into this thing. But, he’s going to be back.”
For a Baltimore pass rush currently lacking consistency through the first four games of the season, even regaining Suggs at less than 100 percent would be a major breakthrough for the defense.