OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Terrell Suggs didn't rush his return from a torn right Achilles tendon just to prove he has remarkable recuperative powers.
No, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker pushed himself through the rehabilitative process because he wanted to help the team win. And in that regard, Suggs emerged from his first game back with a feeling of disappointment.
Only 5 1/2 months removed from surgery, Suggs made his season debut on Oct. 21 against the Houston Texans. He had four tackles, a sack and batted away a pass in a 43-13 defeat.
It was a heroic performance under the circumstances, one that created a buzz around the NFL.
But Suggs wasn't all that interested.
"The crazy, ironic thing is that only people I really listen to is you guys, and I don't really listen to you all that much," Suggs told the Baltimore media on Wednesday. "I wasn't really paying attention around the league. I was really still kind of bitter that we lost.
"The thing is, we said I was going to come back this year and we came back. You guys shouldn't have been shocked by it. Like I said, the only disappointing thing was I didn't come back in a winning effort. I pretty much didn't listen to what everybody else said for the simple fact that we lost the game and we had a chance to be No. 1 in the AFC and we didn't do that."
Suggs and the Ravens (5-2) got a bye week to recover from that lopsided loss, and now they've turned their attention toward defeating Cleveland (2-6) on Sunday.
Although Suggs dismisses his rapid return as anything but extraordinary, his teammates are astonished that he bounced back from a major injury so soon. Some athletes need a year to rebound from a torn Achilles, yet Suggs missed only seven games.
"It's crazy," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He talked about coming back, and I believed him. But at the same time, there's always a little bit of me or probably all of us that said, 'OK, he's talking himself into coming back, but how quickly is he going to be able to?' So, the fact that he was able to get back out there and play as many snaps and play as well as he did is pretty impressive and obviously says a lot about who he is."
Suggs, 30, is a man who can't stand watching from the sideline. Before this year, he missed a total of three games over nine seasons. So when he insisted he would to be back in uniform this season so soon after undergoing surgery in May, he was dead serious.
"It wasn't a matter of if I was coming back, it was just a matter of when," he said.
While on the sideline earlier this season, Suggs yelled encouragement to his teammates. Upon his return, he provided guidance in place of injured middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
"Terrell has been a great leader in his own way all through the years," coach John Harbaugh said. "To me, he's growing in that (role) all the time. He's been a leader for us all year. He hasn't been able to step up as much as he'd like because he wasn't playing, but he's been a part of that all year. And now that he's playing, he's taken even a bigger role."
Suggs said, "A little bit more, but not so much because (Lewis') presence is still felt. He still talks to us, he texts all of us the night before (games) and he texts all of us the morning of. His physical presence on the field is not here, but we have a standard that we're going to held by, especially when he gets back."
Barring a miraculous Suggs-like return, Lewis is out for the year with a torn triceps. Suggs was supposed to be sidelined at least until late November, yet there he was against the Texans, running around the field like he never missed a down all year.
"I knew it was going to be a task, but I didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was," Suggs said. "A lot of former Ravens hit me with texts, and a lot of the Texans congratulated me -- on getting beat."
Someone asked Suggs if he could help turn around a defence ranked 28th overall and 30th against the rush.
"One man is not going to change that. It's definitely a team effort," he said. "We've all got to do things better, the whole defence. It's a team thing. We've got to get back to playing Ravens style football. But we're not panicking. We're not hitting the panic button. We know we've got address it, and it needs to get fixed."