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January 29, 2013

Boisterous Suggs quiet at Super Bowl media appearance

NEW ORLEANS — As Terrell Suggs made his way to his seat for his first media appearance of Super Bowl week, a member of the Baltimore Ravens’ PR staff pointed at the linebacker and whispered to a colleague: “I think somebody should be here.”

Yes, generally, better safe than sorry with Suggs. Never know what he’s liable to say.

Except this time, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was hardly a loud mouth. Not in the mood, apparently, to stir things up before his Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers for the NFL championship next Sunday.

Given a chance to crack wise or lob insults on a variety of topics – from President Barack Obama’s concerns about football safety to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s tattoo – Suggs was soft-spoken and thoughtful Monday. Even made sure to praise the 49ers.

Now we’ll see what happens Tuesday in the circus that is Super Bowl media day.

The last time Suggs was seen leaving the field after a football game, he was tossing curse words and insults in the direction of the New England Patriots after Baltimore’s defense shut out Tom Brady and Co. throughout the second half of a 28-13 victory in the AFC championship game.

Since then, Suggs has kept things low key within earshot of reporters, aside from the occasional non sequitur shouted in the locker room at the Ravens’ practice facility last week.

Asked Monday whether he would be providing any bulletin-board material for the 49ers to latch onto, Suggs quietly replied: “Maybe. Got to wait and see. I mean, nothing I do is scripted, so got to wait and see what I come off the noggin with, when I come off the top.”

Yet as he sat there in front of microphones and cameras, wearing a pinstriped gray suit with polka-dot tie and just-so pocket square, Suggs sounded mostly, well, scripted.

He did make sure to correct a reporter who opened a question by pronouncing Suggs’ first name incorrectly – for the record, the emphasis goes on the second syllable, not the first – but otherwise said many of the right things.

Someone wanted an assessment of 49ers left tackle Joe Staley, one of the players who will try to slow Suggs’ pass rush, and this is what came forth: “Solid. Very good offensive tackle. I think he’s highly underrated, but he was a Pro Bowler this year, so I think he finally got his just due.”

Then Suggs thought back to Baltimore’s 16-6 victory over San Francisco last season and offered this: “Had a little bit of a hard time with him. You know, he’s a great player.”

What about San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the guy Suggs will be chasing Sunday?

“I like the way he plays,” Suggs said.

Someone else wanted a nickname for Baltimore’s defense. No luck there, either.

“Ask me on Feb. 4,” the day after the Super Bowl, was the reply.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

When the topic turned to Obama’s recent statement about wondering whether he’d let a son play football, Suggs gave a considered response, saying that he respects that point of view “for the simple fact that this is a very physical and dangerous sport that we play.”

Asked whether he would allow his own 4-year-old son to pick up the sport, Suggs said: “Absolutely, but it would have to be his choice. Football isn’t for everybody. If my son ... came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want to play football,’ then I would let him play.”

Toward the end of Suggs’ interview session, a reporter brought up Ryan’s body art.

After playfully saying to the reporter, “Are you from New York? Last I checked, it was 49ers-Ravens. ... The Jets are nowhere around,” Suggs launched into a from-the-heart discussion (OK, with some kidding around, too) about what the media doesn’t need to know.

“Who cares? I’ve probably got something on my (body) that y’all don’t see that’s probably inappropriate, but who cares? I think you blow that all out of proportion,” he said. “Everybody should have a certain amount of privacy, even if they’re in the public eye. ... We’re not just football players. We’re not just coaches. We’re human beings, too, and just keep that in mind.”

It’s been a difficult season for Suggs, who played in only eight of 16 regular-season games because of injuries. He missed the first six weeks because of an Achilles tendon problem, then also missed time with a torn right biceps.

A guy with four double-digit season sack totals – including a career-high 14 in 2011, when he also led the league with seven forced fumbles – only had two in 2012.

As someone who, as he put it, has “rarely ever been injured,” it wasn’t easy to deal with. But his teammates are sure he’s rounding into form at the right time, the postseason.

“He’s what you want in front of you – a playmaker, a guy who never stops,” Ravens safety Ed Reed said. “And he’s been playing like that in the last three (games).”

One more game to go.

And five more days to watch what he says.

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