Terrell Suggs injury update: Ravens in trouble

You can’t take LeBron James off the Heat.

You can’t take Tom Brady off the Patriots.

You can’t take Kobe Bryant off the Lakers.

You can’t take Alexander Ovechkin off the Capitals.

And of course, you can’t take Terrell Suggs off the Ravens.

But after the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year tore his Achilles tendon on April 29, it looks like the league’s most dominating outside linebacker will be a spectator for the 2012 season.

I wish I could say this isn’t that big a deal, that Sergio Kindle, Paul Kruger or Courtney Upshaw can jump right in and – voila! – Suggs’ 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 70 tackles and two interceptions from last season are replicated.

But I can’t. This is a huge deal. It’s as big – if not bigger – than when running back Jamal Lewis tore an anterior cruciate ligament during training camp about six months after the Ravens won their only Super Bowl. The Ravens rebounded to make the playoffs that season, but they weren’t championship contenders, which is why they were gone in the divisional round.

This isn’t a severely sprained ankle. This is an injury that impacts explosiveness. If you had one word to describe Suggs’ fiery play, wouldn’t it be “explosiveness?”

You take Suggs’ explosiveness, you might as well take his playbook. He’s become a shell of a player whose 25 sacks in the past two seasons are fifth-most in the league.

Suggs was the lone player in the Ravens’ front seven offenses had to identify every play. Ray Lewis is very good, but he’s no longer great – it’s 2012, not 2002. He’s not as valuable as Suggs, who can play all over the field. The term that is used a lot to describe Suggs is “hybrid,” which is football-speak for saying he’s so terrific he can play defensive end and outside linebacker.

It’s unclear how much time Suggs will miss. “To all my loyal and true fans, know that everything the can and needs to be done, WILL BE DONE!!!!!!, he tweeted. “I WILL BE IN A RAVENS UNIFORM IN 2012!!”

But the average return to the field by NFL players who have torn an Achilles is 11 months, according to a study presented at the American Academy Orthopedic Surgeons in 2006.

And yes, we don’t know the extent of the injury.

But we do know this: Suggs is scheduled to have surgery next week.

“We are in contact with Terrell. He will see a specialist early next week, and we’ll know more at that time,” the Ravens said in a statement.

We don’t know how Suggs sustained the injury. He told ESPN he suffered it running his conditioning test. But there have been unconfirmed reports that he injured it playing basketball.

Does it really matter? No.

Even if Suggs sustained the injury playing basketball, I’m not going to hold his head to a flame because he wanted to shoot hoops with his boys. If he had hurt himself skydiving or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, then the Ravens should demand he repay every dime of the $38 million in guaranteed money of the six-year, $63 million deal he signed in 2009.

But 2009 is the past. The present and future is what matters most for the league’s third-best defense from a year ago.

Role playing time: You’re John Harbaugh and you just learned Suggs is out for the year, maybe forever. What do you do?

Go with Kindle already has already fractured his skull and has played two games in his career;

Go with Upshaw, a rookie;

Go with Kruger, who has 27 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 36 games over the past three seasons;

Go with Michael McAdoo, who, well, does it real matter? The only McAdoo I know has the first name Bob.

Trade for Tim Tebow and plug him at linebacker because Tebow is apparently God, so he can probably rush the passer, too.

Not exactly great choices, hon.

(Feature photo by Chris Ammann)