- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. Show Tony the way to Broadway.

Last night on his weekly radio show, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa announced his retirement effective at the end of the season. The massive 6-foot-3, 340-pounder plans to go into acting, among other things.

"I don't look at it as hanging 'em up, I made this decision that I came into this league as a free agent on my terms and I want to leave on my terms," Siragusa said. "I think people go and don't leave when it's their turn to leave. People try to hang on. I don't want to be a guy that wants to hang on. I think it's my turn to go and I'm ready to go."

Siragusa, who is one of the NFL's most colorful characters, appropriately announced the end of his career in front of a packed house at the Coliseum Sports Bar in the north Baltimore suburb that was getting primed for last night's national championship game between Miami and Nebraska.

Numerous factors contributed to "Goose" calling it a career after 12 seasons. Perhaps the strongest pull is Siragusa's future in show business. ABC television is considering giving "Goose" his own sitcom. He auditioned for a role on the hit HBO show "The Sopranos." There is a book deal in the works and possible work as a color analyst.

"Sports is a natural, but Tony doesn't want to limit himself and acting is something he would like to pursue," said Siragusa's agent Jim Ornstein. "It will be fun for him and he'll be good at it. We're excited now that we know what's happening and what his plans on the field are. There is a lot of interest. The guy is a franchise he's so talented. He's comfortable in front of the camera, he's natural and there is a lot of things happening for him."

Siragusa is the undisputed leader in the Ravens locker room. It may be middle linebacker Ray Lewis' defense, but it's Siragusa's locker room. In the Ravens' inner sanctum, Siragusa can be lewd, crude and downright rude, but there is a side of Siragusa many have never seen.

On Christmas Eve in 1999, Ravens defensive end Fernando Smith accidentally burned down his house while barbecuing on his deck. On Christmas Day, Siragusa took presents from underneath his own Christmas tree and about $10,000 worth of clothing to Smith to help overcome his tremendous loss.

"He always has something to say to break the ice and break the mood," said Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware. "He's brought life to our locker room. I never have encountered anybody and I don't think I'll ever encounter anybody like him again. He's unique."

Other factors that contributed to Siragusa's retirement include knee problems, salary cap considerations and the emergence of backup Lional Dalton. Siragusa, who arrived by helicopter at the Ravens' April minicamp, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in July during training camp and has missed two games this season because of his bum right knee.

The 34-year-old Siragusa was an integral part of the Super Bowl champion's defense that set the NFL's 16-game record for fewest points (165) and fewest rushing yards (970). Two weeks ago without Siragusa in the lineup, Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon became the first back to rush for more than 100 yards in the past 51 games against the Ravens.

Siragusa, who signed as a rookie free agent with the Indianapolis Colts out of Pittsburgh in 1990, has served as an unofficial mentor to many of Baltimore's young stars.

"When I first came in as a rookie, I was a little wet behind the ears and he pointed me in the right direction and said, 'go kill this guy,'" Ravens linebacker Jamie Sharper said.

Going into Monday night's regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, Siragusa has recorded 765 tackles and 23 sacks for minus-150 yards in his career. In last year's AFC Championship game at the Oakland Raiders, Siragusa knocked Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon out of the game in the second quarter on an incomplete pass. Siragusa wasn't flagged for roughing the quarterback, but the league fined him $10,000.

Siragusa signed with the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent on April 24, 1997 from the Colts. The acquisition of Siragusa instantly became good news for the Ravens run defense. Baltimore has ranked first, second, sixth and fifth in the NFL in average yards per rush, respectively, during Siragusa's tenure.

"Let me tell you something, you have not seen the last of me, I'll guarantee you that," Siragusa said.

Note The Ravens signed veteran long snapper Dale Hellestrae for the remainder of the season and placed rookie long snapper Joe Maese on the injured list. Hellestrae, a 17-year NFL veteran, is a former Buffalo Bill, Los Angeles Raider and Dallas Cowboy. Hellestrae won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys (1992, 1993, and 1995).

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