Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WESTMINSTER, Md. | When Terrell Suggs shed his franchise tag to become the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens expected him to hone his pass-rushing skills at training camp.

Unfortunately, Suggs has been limping to meetings with a strained left Achilles tendon, an injury that will keep him out of Baltimore’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday.

“I don’t even feel like I’m part of the team,” Suggs said Tuesday, shortly after receiving treatment in the training room while the Ravens went through drills. “I hardly ever come out to practice because I don’t want to stand around and see all the guys working hard while I’m not able to play.”

It’s sort of like what happened in January, when Suggs missed an entire week of practice with a shoulder injury as Baltimore prepared for the AFC Championship game. Suggs ended up starting, and he contributed two sacks in a 23-14 loss to Pittsburgh.

Suggs has never missed a game since being drafted out of Arizona State in 2003. His durability, in addition to his 53 career sacks, five interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries, explains why the Ravens affixed the franchise tag on him in 2008 and 2009 before rewarding him with a six-year, $63 million contract last month.

The deal included $38 million in guaranteed money, a point that did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“I heard [wide receiver] Derrick Mason say that I’m not buying dinner now; I’m buying houses,” Suggs said.

The Ravens joke about his money, but they wouldn’t dare kid him about not being in pads at training camp this week, chasing quarterbacks in the sweltering heat.

“They understand because they know the player I am. I will play hurt. All my teammates know that,” Suggs said. “If I could be playing, I would.”

As a franchise player, Suggs missed almost all of training camp in 2008. Not that it mattered - he finished with 102 tackles, led Baltimore with eight sacks, scored two touchdowns on interception returns and earned his third Pro Bowl invitation.

Now he’s trying to get back on the field, but the process has been frustrating.

“Every day I want to try to give it a go, but as soon as I start walking on it I start feeling the swelling and the liquid in the heel,” Suggs said. “I don’t want to rush it back and then get hurt again. I don’t want to have a season like that.”

And the Ravens have no intention of putting him back on the field until he’s ready.

“I know he wants to play. It’s not a major injury, but it’s a nagging injury,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’ll be out here soon, and he wants to be.”

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