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Terrell Suggs is a movie buff.
Thus, the Ravens’ outside linebacker smiled when dubbed “FrankenSuggs” heading into the Ravens’ matchup with Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football.
“I’m Frankenstein’s monster and I’m looking for my creator?” Suggs said with a smile. “Yeah, that’s a good sub plot.”
Besides linebacker Ray Lewis, Suggs has a list of four men he says shaped him the most in becoming who he is today – which is one of the most feared outside linebackers in the game.
It’s a tie between all of them, Suggs says, and three are currently on the Jets’ payroll: Ryan, Scott, former linebacker Adalius Thomas and Jets Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine.
Ryan was Suggs’ defensive line coach for two years, then his coordinator for four more. Scott played with Suggs for six seasons before following Ryan to New York.
Thomas, who is now out of the league, spent four years with Suggs before departing for New England. Pettine was Suggs’ outside linebackers coach from 2005 to 2008.
“It’s the group,” Suggs said. “It’s organized chaos.”
FrankenSuggs was a monster from the start.
He shattered the NCAA record for sacks in a single season as a junior in college, notching a staggering 24 in 2002. The Arizona State product was then selected tenth overall by the Ravens.
Suggs ‘Can’t Wait’ For Jets Right Click for Full Screen Option
Suggs immediately made an impact on the field, recording a career-high 12 sacks and six forced fumbles as a rookie. He was named the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year. But Suggs really only played one role – a third-down rush specialist.
But the monster still needed some fine-tuning to become an all-around nightmare.
“All I wanted to do was sack quarterbacks,” Suggs said. “They turned me into a good defensive player.
“They just kind of let me know it’s not a right to be on this defense, it’s a privilege. You don’t be the one that lets the defense down. It wasn’t just getting after the passer. They said, ‘That’s good, but we’re going to need [you] to do everything else around here and be an every-down guy and not just a specialist.’”
Ryan first came into contact with Suggs while he was the defensive line coach. Ryan said Suggs was struggling and the team decided to make him a defensive lineman.
“I’m like, ‘All right, come on in, kid!’ And he does,” Ryan said. “We welcomed him with open arms. I’m like ‘Hey, guess what guys? We’ve got the Rookie of the Year sitting right here. Suggs is going to be a great player,’ and he has.”
Ryan helped Suggs become more of a complete football player from a tactical standpoint. He taught him how to play against the run better, how to hold the edge so his teammates such as Lewis could swoop in for the kill.
“I don’t know what the man’s method was,” Suggs said. “He just made me a tough son of a [gun]. I didn’t whoop much [butt] before he got me, and ever since he had me, I went to four Pro Bowls, signed a long-term deal and I whip plenty of [butt]. Do the math.”
Then there is Scott, who perhaps had the most impact in shaping the personality that’s now become known simply as Sizzle.
The two met, strangely enough, in Scott’s hometown of Detroit shortly after Suggs was drafted. Suggs, who hails from nearby Minnesota, connected with Scott’s rough childhood story and the two immediately bonded.
Suggs said the two hung out incessantly in their younger days – before Scott got married and had kids – and Scott always looked out for him when he got into trouble.
“He was a good teammate and he was an even better friend,” Suggs said. “He’s a brother to me.”
Scott’s trademark swagger also rubbed off on Suggs.
Suggs remembers his first training camp, when Scott bluntly told him that if he was going to continue getting his butt kicked, the rest of the linebackers were going to get him (in not so flowery words) the heck out of their defensive system.
“Bart gave me the thug mentality,” Suggs said. “He gave me the, ‘I’m going to kick your [butt]‘ mentality. Whether we win or lose, they’re going to have me on tape kicking your [butt] all day. That was kind of the edge Bart gave me.”
Suggs said Scott also helped him with his trash-talking. Suggs talks about it like adding another skill or technique to his game.
“It kind of gave me my edge,” Suggs said. “Because if you don’t back it up, you’re going to get your [butt] kicked.”
The Ravens’ linebacker couldn’t leave out Thomas or Pettine. From Thomas, Suggs learned how to be better when dropping in coverage. He learned from Thomas to find safety Ed Reed and push opponents in that direction.
Pettine taught Suggs how to be a better overall outside linebacker. Under Pettine’s guidance, Suggs went to his first Pro Bowl in 2004, once the league saw him as more than just a pass rusher.
Put all the pieces together and there’s FrankenSuggs, the player who some pundits are bringing up in Defensive Player of the Year chatter.
Suggs has four sacks in three games. He’s also got two forced fumbles, an interception and 12 tackles. Fellow linebacker Jarret Johnson said he thinks Suggs is currently playing at his highest level to date.
Ryan was asked what it’s like to face his former projects, the players the mad defensive scientist helped create. The thought of facing Suggs elicited a, “Gad dog.”
“These guys are beasts,” Ryan said. “Haloti [Ngata] is better now than when I had him. So is Suggs, and he was a dominant player. You’ve got two first-ballot Hall of Famers there and maybe some more.
“In my opinion, if you’re going to start a team, and you’re looking for a pass rusher, he’d definitely be in the top one, two or three guys.”
As this week’s Ravens-Jets drama played out, Suggs was half-joking, half serious. He has love in his heart for Ryan and Scott, but badly wants to beat them.
Suggs wore a T-shirt given to him by Scott with the linebacker’s “Can’t Wait” slogan emblazoned across his chest. Suggs pointed into cameras, like he was straight out of a horror film.
“[I'm] personally sending a message to my brother, my former mentor,” Suggs said. “I also can’t wait.”