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With Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed now in Houston, for the first time in more than a decade the Ravens entered training camp looking for new leadership on defense.
The popular belief was that role would fall primarily to linebacker Terrell Suggs, a 2003 first-round draft pick and the longest-tenured member of the Ravens. At the owners meeting in the spring, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said as much.
And Suggs, who turns 31 in October, seems to have embraced that new role wholeheartedly. He reported to camp in superb shape. He is a commanding presence on the practice field. And during the Ravens preseason opener at Tampa Bay, Suggs' leadership was on display.
First, when the team's pregame huddle convened, it was Suggs who assumed Lewis' former spot in the middle of the group.
"We’re winning tonight,” Suggs shouted. “We’re going to show them what the best team in the world looks like!”
Then late in the game, Ravens reserve cornerback Moe Lee picked off a pass and at the end of a 6-yard return, made a very ill-advised lateral that the Ravens were lucky to recover. Somewhere Ed Reed surely was laughing, but you can bet not many Ravens coaches were.
As Lee came off the field, it was Suggs who met Lee and gave him a talking-to, and Lee nodded like a kid who knew he had done something wrong. The message could have been delivered by a coach (and very likely was later), but a stern word coming from the All-Pro Suggs surely carried some weight.
When asked early in camp about assuming a leadership role as the longest tenured Raven, Suggs said, "I’m honored to have that responsibility, so to say. But, it’s not just me. I’m only a few years ahead of Haloti [Ngata] and a few years ahead of [Lardarius] Webb. It’s primarily going to fall on the vets that have been here the longest, but most definitely on the guy that’s been here the longest.”