Terrell Suggs is about to play his 17th season in the NFL, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound mountain of a man with a resumé built on playoff appearances and an on-field demeanor featuring a hard edge.
“It’s a bit intimidating,” new teammate Chandler Jones said.
The Cardinals brought the linebacker home after 16 years with the Ravens because of what he can do on the field – “He’s still a force,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said – but Suggs may have just as much of an impact in the locker room.
“Just being around him makes you a better football player,” linebacker Dennis Gardeck said.
Speeches won’t be Suggs’ thing. He’s about the attention to detail and being a professional. He stresses the idea of being a good teammate. He’s been around some legendary Ravens leaders such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and, given Suggs’ own lengthy career, he was in the same role in Baltimore too.
“I’ve learned from Hall of Famers and some of the best,” said Suggs, whose nickname is T-Sizzle. “It’s good to share some wisdom.”
Suggs acknowledges he’d prefer to lead by example. He’d rather not call out a teammate, but he will let one know if something needs to change. Everyone takes direction – and criticism – differently.
If anything, Suggs wants to deliver the message that to play in the NFL is a job many would love to have.
“He’s easy to talk to, even for the rookies,” Jones said. “He loosens up the locker room a lot. Everyone can kind of walk around on egg shells, but when he walks around, he’s kind of like, ‘Wake up!’ It’s good to have that in the locker room.”
His words and opinions carry weight, no matter the subject.
Earlier in camp, Suggs mentioned in an interview session he thought D.J. Humphries was funny. When the message was relayed to Humphries, the tackle yelled to Suggs across the room for confirmation. When Suggs did so – in a way only Suggs could – Humphries was practically giddy with the validation.
Humphries believes Suggs balances his deep and successful background with a humble vibe that helps Suggs get whatever message he needs to across. Gardeck looks at Suggs and wants to emulate him in any way he can.
“I was intimidated by the whole idea of the NFL,” rookie defensive lineman Zach Allen said. “But the minute you meet (Suggs), it’s ‘We’re all in this together.’ It was a seamless getting-to-know you deal, and I’m thankful for that, because I know there are definitely some spots where that isn’t the case for rookies.”
Joseph said the Cardinals have to be “smart” with Suggs at age 36, but that reducing his snap counts isn’t a guarantee. His pairing with Jones should give the Cardinals solid outside linebacking play, and neither he or the Cards see Suggs’ return to Arizona after stardom at Chandler Hamilton High School and Arizona State as merely a career victory lap.
“I’m not much of a talker,” Suggs said. “I’m definitely a lead-by-example dude. On the field it’s different. Getting me to shut up is the trick. But it’s all football at the end of the day. We’re very fortunate in what we do. I just try to enjoy it and let the guys see that, and I want them to have as much fun as I am.”
Images from Sunday's practice at State Farm Stadium