Terrell Suggs was at the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday looking svelte and fast. Haloti Ngata was also there, feeling upbeat about his offseason rehab.
Those were positive signs for the Ravens’ defense. Despite winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens never had Suggs and Ngata operating at 100 percent last season. Suggs was dealing with the lingering impact of a partially torn Achilles tendon, while Ngata had nagging shoulder and knee issues.
If those two star defenders are healthy in 2013, the Ravens’ defense could be much more dynamic. Suggs is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who can be a game-changer at outside linebacker as a pass rusher and playmaker.
Ngata is a Pro Bowl caliber defensive tackle, capable of dominating the line of scrimmage.
Ngata and Suggs are pushing each other to have stellar seasons. After watching Suggs on the field Tuesday, Ngata came away excited.
"He looks amazing right now,’’ Ngata said. "I think he’s planning to get back into the Defensive Player of the Year kind of Suggs. It’s exciting to see what he’s going to do. It’s fun to play with him. He makes a lot of people better. Definitely motivated. The way he’s come back, seeing him move today, he looked real fast. Faster than I’ve seen him last season. I told him we’re going to have to race for that Defensive Player of the Year. I feel like it will be a great year for both of us."
Ngata said he had just started running two weeks ago, giving his knee time to heal. He avoided surgery and opted for rehab.
"I probably feel like 80, 85 percent now," Ngata said. "Hopefully I’ll be pretty close when training camp comes. After this minicamp, the next five weeks are going to be really important for me to make sure I’m in really good shape to come in and participate in camp."
Suggs has obviously been working hard this offseason, which pleased coach John Harbaugh.
"He’s healthy and he’s in great shape," Harbaugh said Suggs. "He looked tremendous out there. We dove right into a very fast practice. It’s his first football practice in this offseason program. He didn’t seem to have any problem."
Suggs is much more outspoken than Ngata. But with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed no longer around, Ngata expects to join Suggs in taking more of a leadership role.
"I’ll just go by example for the younger guys, and he’ll be the voice," Ngata said.
Meanwhile, the Ravens hope they will see plenty of Suggs and Ngata in 2013 - together and healthy.