Kliff Kingsbury was there at the beginning, when Terrell Suggs had just been drafted into the NFL.
It was 2003, and Suggs was a first-round pick of the Ravens. Kingsbury was also drafted that year, in the sixth round by the Patriots, and the two found themselves at the annual Rookie Premiere photo shoot. Kingbury noted then the swag with which Suggs carried himself.
All these years later, Kingsbury has climbed the coaching ladder to become head coach of the Cardinals. And Suggs, at age 36 and still displaying that swag, is one of Kingbury’s newest players.
“It’s amazing to me that he’s still doing it at this level,” Kingsbury said on his recent Kingsbury Chronicle podcast. “It’s incredible.”
Suggs will be 37 during the season. He has piled up 132½ sacks in his 16 seasons in the NFL. While he made the move to Arizona after his long Baltimore stint, Suggs isn’t declaring 2019 his farewell lap around the league.
“I wish I could play for as long as a guy in Boston, but he plays a different position than me,” Suggs said, referring to soon-to-be-42-year-old Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “We’re going to see. Only thing we’re focused in on now is the now.”
Even Larry Fitzgerald – himself returning to play a 16th season as he turns 36 in August – has frequently talked about how a player wants to retire “before you’re retired.” But Fitzgerald is still productive, and so is Suggs.
He had seven sacks last season for the Ravens, playing more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps. He played coy with the idea that he could play that many snaps again, lining up across from Chandler Jones as a pass rusher and fitting fellow veteran Brooks Reed into the outside linebacker mix.
“Let’s see how much (I’ve) got left,” Suggs said. “We ain’t gonna cap it.”
“I pray that I can still play football at 35,” Jones said. “When I see guys that are playing – not just quarterbacks; not just kickers; not just punters – but when you have a position like defensive end or any defensive position, if you can play past 33, 34, it’s a blessing. To see someone like that playing football at a high level still, it’s something I try to emulate. Hopefully I can play that long.”
Jones, 29, is a baby compared to Suggs. Jones was a one-time teammate of Brady’s and said he’s actually talked to Brady about his efforts to prolong his career. When it comes to his new teammate, “hopefully I can pick at Terrell Suggs and find out what they are doing to play this long.”
Suggs is the active career leader in sacks, ranking in a tie for 13th on the all-time list (although sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982.) An eight-sack season this year would vault him into seventh place ahead of Hall of Famer Jason Taylor; he needs nine to tie Michael Strahan for sixth place.
Suggs said the sacks list was “sorta important” but getting victories with the Cardinals was more important. But that’s another area Suggs’ age and experience can help. Beyond his on-field work, Suggs knows he can help with advice and knowledge with his younger teammates – which, in this case, is everyone else on the roster.
There are things to accomplish. Suggs’ physical skills are still considerable, and his desire to play hasn’t waned.
“I have a lot of reasons why,” Suggs said. “The main one is that I still love ball.”
Images of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals