Pardon the interruption, but I’m going to get personal for a moment.
For those familiar with my act as “Goob” the Ravens super fan – in real life, I’m somewhat different. At times, I find myself cracking a smile or laughing at the good fortunes that I’ve been blessed to have. I realize I’m living a dream, I realize that if had a career change, a black friday-esque line would form around our brand new company offices for a shot at doing what I do. Humility is key, and as I interact with Ravens fans or write, I always try to remember that.
The reason I’m saying this is because I want to dive more into what I’ve been fortunate enough to witness in the Ravens locker room. My opinions are not always correct, but I do want to use this as a forum to allow you to justifiably realize that the Ravens may have bit off more than they can chew.
As the news broke Wednesday night that Ed Reed was going to finish his Hall of Fame career in Houston rather than Baltimore, I was taken back a bit. Of course, I’m going to miss Ed, and I honestly expected this to happen. Still, I was left wondering if the Ravens are prepared to absorb such a dynamic loss of veteran leadership.
Now that Reed is gone, I personally don’t believe there is anyone currently under contract that will have nearly the amount of leadership impact that was previously present in the Ravens’ locker room. Ray Lewis is gone, and Reed could have easily taken over in the wake of his retirement.
Joe Flacco wasn’t given $120 million for his leadership; he was given it for his play. Flacco is turning into a leader, but he isn’t the rah-rah type of guy to get you fired up.
Haloti Ngata isn’t the answer either. As aggressive and scary as Ngata can be on the field when he decides to play and is healthy, he is soft spoken and just one of the guys during practice and meetings.
Personally, Ray Rice is a fantastic person and is one of only a few guys inside the locker room that I can actually call a friend. Rice is one hell of a player and shows his leadership qualities in the community, but I’ve just never seen him in the role of smacking his fellow teammates in the helmet before the game to get them fired up.
The last person eligible to fill that role is someone that even Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti recently said will likely become the next leader to fill the leadership void left by Lewis and Reed – Terrell Suggs.
After Reed’s impending departure was all over Twitter last night, Suggs posted the following to his own Twitter page:
So Suggs seems to be saying that he and Ngata are ready to step up. I mentioned my hesitation with Ngata above.
As for Suggs, inside the locker room, no player demands more attention than he does. It could be his 32-inch television, two-speaker and subwoofer Bose system blaring with the latest Blu-Ray or some profanity laced comment to distract a player from giving an interview.
Don’t get me wrong – Suggs is hilarious, but he’s also a goofball.
One major component of being a leader is character, and I’ve personally questioned Suggs’ character. No one inside that locker room wants to put on more of a show on the gridiron more than Suggs, but a certain part of it comes with respect amongst his teammates. Knowing that Reed was probably not going to return, I had questioned Suggs being able to fill that role.
And that was before this past weekend’s Ed Block Courage Awards.
Suggs was voted by his teammates to receive an award showcasing “players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage,” as stated on the Ed Block website. I’m not discounting what Suggs was able to do on the field this year as remarkable – it obviously showed supreme dedication and work ethic. Rather, I’m upset at the fact that he didn’t even show up to accept his award (Torrey Smith was there to accept for Suggs).
Award winners have others accept on their behalf all the time. That’s nothing new. However, the Ed Block Courage Awards are held in Baltimore. Suggs not only has a house in Baltimore, but was also in town over the weekend for an autograph signing in Pasadena. Suggs was undoubtedly compsensated for his time at the autograph signing, but because he had what was said to be “previous committments for training” in Arizona, he couldn’t hang around on Monday night to accept an NFL award that he teammates voted him to receive?
It’s for reasons like those I just presented that I doubt Suggs’ ability to garner full respect in the locker room as a leader of the Ravens moving forward.
Because of that, the Ravens will still be searching for the next man up, in the locker room as well as on the field.