Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Terrell Suggs is the first to admit there's no one who can truly replace Ray Lewis as the heart and soul of the Ravens' defense, so Suggs won't even bother trying.
"This game will never see another Ray Lewis, another emotional leader like that," Suggs said. "So it's not just on myself. It's on a few guys. No one man is going to make a difference like Ray did."
But with Lewis now retired after a 17-year career that was capped by last year's dramatic Super Bowl victory, Suggs is now the face of this defense, whether he admits to it or not.
Just watch a Ravens' practice, and you'll see -- and hear -- why Suggs now has the attention of his teammates. Before any given play, he'll yell out some words to his teammates as an Army drill sergeant might during training exercises. And his teammates will answer back as one.
Now that Lewis is no longer the emotional fireplug of the defense, it is Suggs with the cache and the swagger, even if he has toned down some of the more inflammatory remarks that have occasionally drawn the ire of opponents. A kinder, gentler Suggs at age 30? Well, let's not go that far. After all, he is still a fiercely aggressive pass rusher who is the one player on this defense that must be accounted for at all times.
Suggs, who battled back from an Achilles injury which he suffered during the offseason last year to help the Ravens make an eventual Super Bowl run, said he feels as good now as he has at any point in his career.
"Personally, my No. 1 thing was coming into camp healthy, and I'm 100 percent healthy," he said. "I feel great."
Heading into his 11th NFL season, Suggs is the longest tenured member of the Ravens' defense now that Lewis has retired and Ed Reed has joined the Houston Texans. And despite his protestations about being the biggest personality on a defense known for dominance over the years, Suggs has graduated into the emotional leader on his side of the ball. Or either side of the ball, for that matter. Joe Flacco is the leader of the offense, but his laid-back personality doesn't lend itself to intense locker room speeches.
Suggs is now that guy. Even if he insists he won't try and imitate his more renowned former teammate.
"You might argue that because I'm here the longest, that I've got 11 years in, it's all on me," Suggs said. "But Ray was one of a kind. His legacy is what it is. Ain't nobody going to be able to do it like he's done it. We're not even going to try."
That's another reason why Suggs, who earned the nickname "Sizzle" or "T-Sizzle" for his flamboyant style, won't be making any sweeping proclamations about a Super Bowl repeat.
Where Suggs might have pronounced the Ravens as the team to beat in previous seasons, he's now more inclined to talk about what kind of effort it will take just to reach the Super Bowl for a second straight time.
"The Super Bowl isn't until February, but we're not worried about that right now," he said. "We're a long way from February. It's an NFL season, and it's going to be tough. No win is easy. The successful teams are the ones who work that hardest, and I think we're ready to do what we have to do to try and be successful."
Wait. Has Suggs gone conservative with that kind of coachspeak phrasing? Has the "Sizzle" left Suggs?
"Nah, I'm still 'Sizzle,' '' he said. "I'm just a year older, a year wiser. I still do the majority of my talking on the field."
Rest assured Suggs will still be heard on the field. And with Sizzle now inheriting Lewis' role as the singular leader for the defense, his voice will rise above the rest. Just as it does every day on the practice field and then on game day.