Ravens' Suggs might not be able to shoulder pain

January 16, 2009

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- As usual, Terrell Suggs is the focus of attention during Ravens-Steelers week. This time, however, his mouth isn't the issue.

It's a sprained right shoulder that just might keep him out of the AFC championship game.

With his arm in a sling, Suggs spoke to the media for eight minutes Thursday. Instead of talking about bounties, his hatred of the Steelers or Baltimore's plan to neutralize trash-talking receiver Hines Ward on Sunday, the Ravens linebacker ditched his trademark grin as he discussed his ailing shoulder.

"This game is bigger than all that nonsense," Suggs said, his voice barely above a whisper. "This game is 10 times bigger than cheap shots and playing with an injury or not playing with an injury. This game is that important. It's so important that I would consider sitting out to win it."

Suggs hurt his shoulder while tackling Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins in the second quarter of Baltimore's 13-10 upset last Saturday. He did not play in the second half and has not practiced this week, which means his streak of playing in 96 consecutive games over six seasons could be in serious jeopardy.


"I'm doing whatever I can. I've never missed a game and I definitely don't want to start with the AFC championship game," he said. "I'm rehabbing four or five times a day. Come Sunday, we'll see."

Suggs is an instrumental piece of a defense that ranked second in the NFL during the regular season. He led the Ravens with eight sacks, had a career-high 102 tackles and intercepted two passes, taking one back for a touchdown.

His outstanding performance earned him a third invitation to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, but at this juncture of the season, his thoughts are on a far more important excursion: to Tampa for the Super Bowl.

"If I feel that being out there will hinder us, that we'll be playing out there with 10, then the decision is obvious: I can't go," he said.

Even if Suggs can play, there's no guarantee he can last beyond his initial encounter with someone in a black jersey. He couldn't describe the injury in specifics, but said "it could be major ligament damage."

Not exactly uplifting news for a player getting ready to go against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"There's a big chance that it can get worse, especially in a smashmouth game. We're not playing Indy, we're not playing a finesse team," Suggs said. "We're playing a team that has the exact identity as us. It's going to be a physical game, and they said there's a chance you could aggravate it more than it already is."

If Suggs can't go, he would be replaced by Edgar Jones, Jameel McClain and/or Marques Douglas -- none of whom is remotely as effective as Suggs, Baltimore's most efficient pass rusher.

Suggs is conceivably as important to the Ravens as safety Troy Polamalu is to the Steelers, and Polamalu has already declared that a calf injury won't keep him out of Sunday's game.

Asked if he expected to have Suggs in the lineup, Baltimore safety Ed Reed said, "Oh yeah, of course. You would have to strap him down. Just like Troy's calf, I know the competitor he has in him."

Ward feels the same.

"Suggs, he's a talent. Next to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, he's really their heart and soul," Ward said. "He's the one who gets guys going. He's got a constant motor and just doesn't stop. I'll bet anything he's going to be on the field. There's no way he can miss this game."

A Steelers-Ravens duel is usually preceded by banter between the teams, and the rivalry is so intense that often the trash-talk continues long after the final whistle. Several days after Pittsburgh's win over Baltimore on Sept. 29, Suggs told an Atlanta radio station there was a bounty out on Ward and Steelers rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, whose season ended with a hard hit from Lewis in that game.

Suggs later said there wasn't a bounty, although the NFL investigated his comments.

On Thursday, Suggs focused on only one topic: his shoulder.

"I didn't even want to come talk to you guys," he said. "This is the first time I've really been injured. Everybody plays hurt, anybody can play hurt, but there's a good chance I possibly won't get to line up and play for the championship with my team. Not ever missing a game in the past and to make this my first one, it's not really something I'm going to be happy about."

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