It worked. The outside linebacker lost 20 pounds, and his a sleeker, 263-pound frame has not escaped the notice of the coaching staff and his teammates.
“He’s going to be quicker and more explosive on the pass rush. We’ve seen that out here,” coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “I don’t think it will hurt his run-stopping ability at all.”
Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata said, “He lost some weight, but he’s also gotten stronger. That’s tough to do. That’s when you know someone worked hard in the offseason. He put the team before himself.”
Not only is Suggs in peak condition, but he’s also sporting a healthy attitude. A year ago, after finally resolving a sticky contract issue with a new six-year deal in mid-July, Suggs promptly hurt his toe in an early training camp practice and hobbled through the offseason.
He recovered in time to start the opener, but a questionable chop block to the right knee from Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn forced him to miss three games. Suggs finished with a career-low 4 1/2 sacks and entered the offseason determined to bounce back in 2010.
“The only thing that really propelled me to this year was I just wanted to be a better teammate for my team, a better professional,” he said. “I just wanted to be the best player for the Baltimore Ravens. That was kind of the motivation, just to get back to what you all are used to seeing me as.”
Ravens fans are used to watching Suggs scoot around the outside and collar the opposing quarterback. He was the Associated Press defensive rookie of the year in 2003 after he recorded 12 sacks. The following season, Suggs earned the first of his three Pro Bowl invitations, and in 2008 he had a career-high 102 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions.
Last season, however, was different.
“What a difference a year makes,” Suggs said. “You know, last year I didn’t get the luxury of participating in training camp. Therefore, I didn’t get to play at my desired weight. But this year I’m taking full-fledged advantage of it, and I feel good. I feel really good.”
To drop the weight, Suggs had to give up his beloved Popeye’s fried chicken and cut back considerably on his cookie consumption. He still ate some cookies, but only after he adhered to the diet prescribed to him by the team nutritionist.
“It was kind of a reward once we started getting the weight down. It was like, OK, if you reach a certain goal, then you can have a cookie,” Suggs said. “But then you have to work hard in practice. She did a good job helping me, especially down the stretch.”
The result has been on full display at camp. Suggs is again flashing his trademark smile, especially after working his way into the offensive backfield.
“He’s not worrying about anything,” Ngata said. “He can just come in and work. Everything’s behind him now. He got the contract he wanted, and he’s not worried about any of the aches and pains that slowed him last year.”
It’s too late for Suggs, 27, to do anything about his disappointing 2009 season _ except to use it as a reason to excel in 2010.