Suggs Wins Defensive Rookie Honors

Dec 30, 2003

By BARRY WILNER
AP Football Writer

Although he didn't start until the season finale, Terrell Suggs was soimpressive for the Baltimore Ravens that he earned The Associated Press' NFLDefensive Rookie of the Year award Tuesday.

Suggs, an outside linebacker with a pass-rushing burst reminiscent ofLawrence Taylor, had 12 sacks out of a 3-4 alignment in which he often servedas an end. His skills at pressuring quarterbacks earned him 23 votes from anationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.

That beat Dallas cornerback Terence Newman, who had 15 votes.

'Every rookie in the NFL knows it's hard to come into the league andperform good enough to get an award for it,' Suggs said. 'This has been areally great year, and I'm hoping to finish it real strong.

'I'm kind of overwhelmed with the whole thing. I'm just taking it in rightnow. It's a great thing.'

Suggs was the 10th overall pick in April's draft, dropping a few slots whenhe didn't run as quickly as expected in private workouts. But he was apass-rushing force at Arizona State, setting a Division I-A record with 24sacks in 2002, and he carried that talent right into the pros.

'He's a bright kid,' Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said.'Terrell's still got a lot of growing up to do, but he learns quickly, has atremendous passion for football and isn't intimidated by the pro game.'

Why should he be? He's playing on one of the league's most intimidatingdefenses, alongside linebackers Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Ed Hartwell. HadBoulware not been sidelined last Sunday against Pittsburgh, Suggs would havebeen a backup the entire year.

And as a backup, he finished tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks, ahead ofsuch stars as Jevon Kearse and Dwight Freeney. He set a Ravens franchise recordwith his 12 sacks in helping Baltimore reach win the AFC North - it's firstdivision title.

The Ravens host Tennessee on Saturday in a wild-card game.

But sacks are only part of the job - a big part, obviously - and Suggs iseager to improve other areas of his game.

'I've gotten more confidence as a player, and my pass coverage has cometogether,' he said. 'I'm playing well enough now that they're confidentenough to throw me out there on first and second downs. It took a long time,but I'm getting it now.'

Newman, the fifth overall choice in the draft, was followed in the voting byGreen Bay linebacker Nick Barnett with six votes. Minnesota defensive tackleKevin Williams received three, Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman got two, andNew England safety Eugene Wilson received one.

Suggs is the second Ravens linebacker to win the award; Boulware got it in1997.

He's also the third linebacker in the last four years to take the honor,joining Brian Urlacher (2000) and Kendrell Bell (2001). Last year's winner wasCarolina defensive end Julius Pepper.

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