KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Terrell Suggs was brutally honest with Chiefs coach Andy Reid when they spoke on the phone for the first time, shortly after Kansas City was awarded the veteran pass rusher off waivers ahead of a handful of other playoff contenders.
He spent 16 years in Baltimore, almost all of them memorable. He spent one in Arizona that he would rather forget.
“I asked coach, I was like, ‘I just learned the hard way, a player like me don’t just fit in anywhere,’” Suggs said over the din of a pickup basketball game in the Chiefs locker room. “Coach Reid got on and said, ‘Trust me. You’ll fit in here.’”
So far, so good.
After a day of rumors that Suggs might not report to any team other than the Ravens, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection was more than ready to take the field with the Chiefs for the first time Wednesday. Suggs’ arrival happened to be a perfectly timed marriage of convenience: He joins a team that already clinched the AFC West and has Super Bowl aspirations, but also a team that has lost defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Alex Okafor to torn pectoral muscles.
Okafor’s injury occurred this past Sunday, shortly before halftime of the Chiefs’ win over Denver. It left the team with just Frank Clark, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Demone Harris at a crucial position in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme — hardly an enviable situation heading into the final two regular-season games and the playoffs.
“I think I can come in and contribute right off the bat,” Suggs said. “This was a team that was what, a penalty away from the Super Bowl? You’re not really missing much. Hopefully I can add that last addition and we can do something special.”
One of the reasons that Suggs could see the field as soon as Sunday night, when the Chiefs visit the Chicago Bears, is because he is famliar with Spagnuolo’s system. They were together in Blatimore in 2013 and ’14, when Spagnuolo spent time with Ravens coach John Harbaugh as a senior defensive assistant and secondary coach.
“Spags has been a head coach. He’s been a defensive coordinator before. I’m not sure there’s anything more he can learn, but he’s been doing a good job evolving the defense, evolving how players play,” Suggs said. “That right there can help a guy in his 17th year in the league.”
Now the question is whether a 37-year-old pass rusher can help the Chiefs.
Even though he may have lost a step, Suggs showed during his 13 games with the Cardinals that he still has the ability to get after the quarterback — he had 5 1/2 sacks before they parted ways. But more importantly, Suggs is still among the best in the game at setting the edge against the run, and his leadership and experience are invaluable.
Sure, he has 138 sacks in his career. He’s caused a bunch of fumbles. The numbers are impressive. But he’s also been part of a Super Bowl champion, helping the Ravens hoist the Lombardi Trophy after the 2012 season.
“You’re talking about an experienced guy who has been there and done it,” Reid said. “He’s won championships. He’s a good person. He’s been a leader throughout his career. You don’t last this long in the league if you’re not a quality player and person, so that’s what he brings you.”
Reid coached Suggs in the Pro Bowl, and he’s spent years figuring out ways to minimize the wily pass rusher’s impact when the Eagles and Chiefs played the Ravens. But even so, the Chiefs have won four straight and are on a roll — especially on defense — and Reid is generally wary about adding pieces to the mix so late in the season.
Even ones that someday could land in the Hall of Fame.
“You got to make sure he can still play. That’s important,” Reid said, “and then how do they fit in your locker room? We have a good locker room, and a strong locker room. We have some very good leaders on this team. How do they fit in that? You don’t want to bring in someone who is going to disrupt that.”
Suggs spent the morning going through a physical and diving into the playbook. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said Suggs fit right in.
They are not concerned about a disrupted locker room. They just want disrupted quarterbacks.
“I remember there was one time they were blitzing kind of away from him,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes recalled, “and I knew he was dropping and I was checking to a different play, and he was right where I wanted to throw the ball. That just shows his preparation and how he makes it difficult for quarterbacks to do what they want to do.
“Just to add someone at this point int he season that you know is going to come in and produce i was excited about that,” Mahomes said. “It’s going to help us out tremendously.”
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