OWINGS MILLS — In one corner of the Baltimore Ravens’ locker room, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs winced visibly while putting on his shirt due to a strained right shoulder he suffered Saturday while sacking Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins.
In another sector of the room, former undrafted free agents Edgar Jones and Jameel McClain discussed how they would work in tandem to potentially replace Suggs in the lineup during Sunday’s AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Suggs’ obvious pain and the fact that he didn’t practice were bad omens for the Ravens, who are making contingency plans in case their top pass rusher is out or limited this week. Suggs is expected to be a game-time decision and has acknowledged that he’s pessimistic about whether he’ll be able to play and might need to wear a special harness to hold his shoulder in place.
"I would expect Terrell to go, but if you lose a guy like that it’s such a big loss," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He’s such a force on the field. We’ll have guys step up, but you never really replace a Terrell."
Suggs wasn’t made available for comment by team officials to discuss his injury, but is scheduled to meet with reporters today at the Ravens’ training complex. He has never missed a game, appearing in 96 consecutive regular-season games.
If Suggs can’t go, the Ravens have confidence in Jones. He’s a versatile player who wears No. 84 because he also plays tight end and caught a 25-yard pass during the regular season.
Defensively, Jones had a tackle, a half-sack and six special-teams tackles in seven games.
"Edgar has played when he’s had to step in, he’s done a nice job," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s been physical. He’s been a two-way player for us where he practices on both sides, and he’s done very well."
Jones said he’s working overtime studying his playbook and game film to get ready for Sunday. He’s aware that he’ll likely be targeted by the Steelers, and may draw a few stares because of his unusual jersey number.
"I’m going to go out and play even though I don’t know exactly what will happen," said Jones, a former Division I-AA All-American defensive end at Southeast Missouri. "I want to be sure I’m prepared if I’m starting. This is the chance, so you’ve got to take advantage of it.
"A lot of people are going to be like, ‘Who is Edgar Jones?’ My teammates believe in me, so that’s all that matters. I will put it all in God’s hands."
It will be a collective effort to replace Suggs with Jones, McClain and possibly backup defensive end Marques Douglas all collaborating to account for the possible absence of the Suggs, who’s the Ravens’ third-leading tackler (102) and sacks leader (eight).
"Our defense is a group effort anyway, as you know," Harbaugh said. "If anybody can’t go on our defense, it will be packages designed by Rex Ryan and put guys in spots to do what they do well."
An undrafted linebacker out of Syracuse who was a high priority for the Ravens to recruit and sign following the draft, McClain has made an impact in limited action this season.
The only undrafted free agent to make the team, McClain set a franchise record with two safeties this season (one on a sack of Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell and another when he blocked punt against the Philadelphia Eagles out of back of the end zone).
He played in all 16 games and recorded eight tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and ranked third on the team with 17 special-teams tackles.
"This is a great experience to be here as a rookie, and so few people get that opportunity," McClain said. "It’s just playing the game. Ray Lewis said it the best: Be prepared and play this game like you’re going to start even if you’re not. I don’t know what’s going on or how it’s going to work, but coach Rex will come up with the best plan."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.