Terrell Suggs has registered Pro Bowl seasons in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. So how does the Ravens outside linebacker snap that trend?
"Just ball out," he said this week at training camp. "I'm kind of focused on myself and just picking up where we left off last year. I kind of got in a little groove, and I'd have to say our team as a defense got into a little groove, and we started playing a certain style of football, and that's the football the city has known for us to play. And I think definitely not missing a step there, definitely picking up where I left off, and you know, I made every practice last year, and I'm definitely going to try to do that this year."
In those Pro Bowl campaigns, Suggs posted 39 sacks for 290.5 yards and 318 tackles. In the other four years, he compiled 29.5 sacks and 272 tackles.
But Suggs, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 who ranks first in franchise history in sack yards (519) and second in sacks (68.5), did not blame his lack of production on anyone but himself.
"It's never really so much the coaches. It's probably [more] the player," he said. "I probably dropped when I should have rushed, and I probably rushed when I should have dropped. So it's all defense. It's all progression defense, and if it's anything, it was my fault. I was probably thinking too much in my head. I think my position coach, Ted Monachino, he did a good job when he came in to getting back to the basics, getting back to the things I do best and what helps this team. Also with [former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison], he called the plays that sent me. So I think it was just more the player. I had to get back to the basics."
Cousins has 'edge' to start
Prior to Thursday's session of training camp, Ravens rookie Jah Reid had taken the vast majority of snaps at right tackle. Meanwhile, his primary competitor to start at that position, Oniel Cousins, was not permitted to practice until Thursday.
Still, coach John Harbaugh said that Cousins is leading Reid in the race to open the regular season against Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11 as the starter at right tackle.
"It would be unfair for me to just probably put a grade on it right now without watching the tape, but I thought [Cousins] held up fine for the first day out there," Harbaugh said Thursday. "Jah is a little bit tired right now, and he should be. Gosh, he went every rep for three straight days. He took every rep. He said, 'Coach, I want to take every rep.' We know he can go long. Now we just need to see if he can go well. I think it is going to be a good battle. Oniel would have the edge, obviously, with his experience. So we'll see."
Cousins, however, didn't quite share his coach's thoughts on the contest between third-round picks (Cousins in 2008 and Reid in April).
"I wouldn't say that," he said. "There's always competition. You've got to put your best foot forward, and that's what I'm doing. I'm competing, and that makes each and every one of us better. On the offensive line, we compete with each other, but we've all got to stick together. At the end of the day, this will only make me better, and it will make whomever I'm competing against better, too."
Cousins also insisted that Reid's status as a rookie should not be held against him.
"Ain't nothing easy in this business," he said. "Like I said, you never know. One day, you can be real high, and the next day, stuff can hit the fan. Like I said, my mentality is to just get better as a player and continue to compete and do whatever I can to help this team win."
Cousins has played in 25 career games, including four starts. His intent is to add a fifth start against the Steelers.
"You want to be a starter, and that's my goal," he said. "My goal is to help this team win games. I'm going to try to work on my technique this year. That's real critical for me."
The waiting game
For players like cornerback Chris Carr and Cousins, the wait was excruciating. Carr, an unrestricted free agent, and Cousins, a restricted free agent, were part of a group of Ravens who could not practice until Thursday until the players association voted to ratify the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
Even then, players like linebackers Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe and Prescott Burgess, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura and right guard Marshal Yanda had to wait until the late afternoon and early evening before players reps for all 32 teams approved the agreement, which opened the door for practice.
"It's definitely difficult," Carr said. "You see everybody out there practicing, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'I know it's hot outside, but I don't want to get rusty while everybody else is getting into mid-season form.' So it felt good to get out there today for the first day back. It's just one of those things. You knew the lockout is going to be different this year than in any other year. Free agency was a hassle, OTAs and not being able to practice. But it beats jumping right into the season."
Said Cousins: "Yeah, it was kind of frustrating because you want to get out there and compete and show what you can do and do whatever you can to help the team. The problem was solved, and I was able to get out there today and knock the rust off, and it felt good."
The fortunate thing for players like Carr and Cousins is they can lean back on their experience of having immersed themselves in their respective systems and aside from a few tweaks here and there, the schemes were somewhat familiar.
"There's definitely changes and stuff, but [the experience] helps a little bit," Cousins said. "Like I said, I'm out there trying to knock the rust off. My biggest thing is I'm trying to work on my technique. I'm trying to master that, and I'm just going to take it one day at a time and get coached up."
Still, Carr conceded that nothing can replicate participating in practice at training camp.
"I think getting the timing down, your pedals, your reads, your routes, your recognition, you always do need to go out there and do those things," Carr said. "But mentally, I'm sharp, and I do know this defense. So mentally, I'm ahead of a lot of people just from doing it for so long. And I have been doing a lot of footwork and technique stuff. I made a lot of plays today. There's more plays I should've made because of rust, but I still felt pretty good out there."
The Ravens cut fullback Jason McKie on Friday, four days after they signed All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach. McKie was signed last November, but never played in a game for the Ravens. … Rookie cornerback and first-round pick Jimmy Smith missed his fourth straight practice with a tight hamstring. … After a contact practice the night before, Harbaugh put the players in shells on Friday and gave select veterans the day off. He also moved the practice back from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Among those vets who sat out were Haloti Ngata, Domonique Foxworth, Ray Lewis, Jarret Johnson and Brendon Ayanbadejo. Tight end Ed Dickson did not practice, either.Copyright © 2015, CT Now