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Suggs taking smart approach to his rehab and not rushing back from serious injury

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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Suggs contends that he wasn't hurt playing basketball but was injured doing conditioning drills. (Getty Images)  
Suggs contends that he wasn't hurt playing basketball but was injured doing conditioning drills. (Getty Images)  

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The most important thing linebacker Terrell Suggs said in his first public appearance since tearing his right Achilles is not that he promises to return in 2012 but that he promises not to rush his recovery.

"Right now," Baltimore's star linebacker said Thursday, "rehab is my football skill, and until I master it I won't be out there again. I'm definitely trying to become All-Pro at that, ASAP."

Now that's what I call smart, and let me explain why in two words: Jason Peters.

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The Eagles' All-Pro left tackle tore his Achilles in March and underwent successful surgery. Then, in May, he tore the Achilles again, this time when his walker broke. Not only isn't Peters likely to play again this season, but I know some people who wonder if he'll ever play again.

It's a cautionary tale Suggs would be wise to follow, and it sounds as if he is. While I'm not suggesting Peters did anything improper, I am suggesting that Suggs pay attention and proceed carefully, patiently and wisely -- listening to physicians as much as he listens to his body.

I know, I know, he's the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Baltimore's career sack leader and one of the premier members on a premier defense. So it would be helpful to have him back as quickly as possible. But I don't want what happened to Jason Peters happening to him, and while the Peters' injury sounds like a freak accident it's a reminder that you can never be too certain.

Without Suggs, the Ravens have Paul Kruger, rookie Courtney Upshaw and maybe, just maybe, Sergio Kindle to take his place, and, OK, so they're not Terrell Suggs. But tell me who is. The Ravens last year played four games without Ray Lewis, and look what happened. They won the division, went 6-0 in the AFC North and were one Lee Evans catch from making it to the Super Bowl.

The point is: They've overcome the loss of a key player before.

Shortly after he was hurt, Suggs predicted he'd return by November, but something happened between now and then, and it was something good: Suggs retired from the fortune-telling business, declining to offer specific dates when he met with reporters after the Ravens concluded this week's minicamp.

"Maybe we were shooting too far," he admitted. "We'll never know. We'll see."

Precisely. Which is why he must pay more attention to doctors instead of a calendar. Look, this isn't a race, and it's not a season that's at stake. It's a guy's career. So there's no reason for Suggs to rush to make it on to the field again this season. Either he can, or he can't, and he doesn't get to make that decision. Doctors overseeing his recovery do.

Yeah, I know, Suggs said he underwent a new procedure that accelerates the recovery process, but big deal. Do you want your recovery to go fast, or do you want it to go right? I know which I'd choose, and it's in line with the Ravens and their No. 1 patient.

"We've got doctors, we've got professionals and we have a professional player who know the pace," said coach John Harbaugh. "You work hard, but you do it within the boundaries of what you're able to do at the time. We've got people who are professionals at that. So nothing needs to be said, other than, 'Get back as soon as we can.' And part of that is no setback. Professionals take care of that."

Bingo.

Suggs again contended that he wasn't hurt playing basketball but was injured doing conditioning drills ("You all who know me know that when I say that's what happened that's exactly what happened"); said he wasn't surprised the Ravens wouldn't garnish his pay ("I didn't expect them to, and they didn't expect to"); insisted the defense would survive without him ("this team has a lot of stars") and reiterated that he would make it back before the end of the season ("I will be in a Baltimore uniform in 2012. The only question is when").

But it's what he didn't say that is noteworthy, and what he didn't say was when he'd be back.

Basically, nobody knows -- including, and most especially, Terrell Suggs. It's one thing to want to return by November; it's another to be able to do it. The irrepressible Suggs is known for what he says in the locker room and the Ravens' huddle, but on this score he's going to have to shut up and listen ... and it sounds as if he is.

"It's definitely frustrating," he said. "This is going to be a learning experience."

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