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Terrell Suggs: “It’s hard to turn down the reigning MVP”

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It turned out that the people saying Suggs wouldn’t play for any team but the Ravens didn’t know what they were talking about.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The routine for the NFL waiver wire is well-established. A team releases a player, who is then available to be picked up by another team for a short period of time — usually about 24 hours. Interested teams send a claiming email to the league office. The claiming team with the worst record is awarded the rights to the player, who then joins his new team.

Simple... right?

But in the case of the Kansas City Chiefs picking up linebacker (now defensive end) Terrell Suggs from the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, it was anything but simple.

For one thing, Suggs was released on a Friday. So the typical 24-hour deadline was extended most of the way through Monday; waiver deadlines are always at 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on business days. That left a whole weekend for fans and media to speculate. And they did.

For another, Suggs let it be known that his preference was to return to the Baltimore Ravens, where he had played for 16 seasons before signing with the Cardinals in 2019. By late afternoon Monday — when the NFL announced that the Chiefs would be awarded Suggs’ rights — Ravens fans and media had managed to convince everybody that Suggs would never report to whichever team obtained him.

But in reality, Suggs was always extremely likely to report to any team that would have claimed him; with two weeks left in the season, the only teams that make waiver claims for 37-year old former All-Pros are those who will be appearing in the postseason. As it turned out, all of the teams that made a claim — the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs — are just that.

And then there’s the little matter of $353,000 — the remaining 2019 salary Suggs would forfeit by not reporting to the team that owned his contract. But even if he decided to forgo the money, failing to report to the claiming team wouldn’t have made it possible for Suggs to play for the NFL team of his choice. He would have had to sit out the rest of the 2019 season.

Despite all this, by Wednesday, many Chiefs fans were still unsure whether Suggs had reported — or ever would. And in the first opportunity where Kansas City reporters could question team coaches and players about Suggs, they wanted to know whether he had to be talked into coming to Kansas City.

“I talked to him,” said head coach Andy Reid. “Did I tell him about what’s going on here, and did he want to hear it? Sure. Yeah, he wanted to know what was going on. He’s a thorough guy. But did I have to put the hammer down on him or anything? No, I didn’t have to do that. He had some questions, which guys do who have been around. I think he liked what he heard, and he was fired up. It wasn’t a recruiting type of situation. Just common questions.”

”I was really uncertain about my future last week, but I talked to Coach — it was a brief conversation — and I was like, ‘OK,’” Suggs said of his talk with Reid. “I asked coach, ‘I just learned the hard way that a player like me just (doesn’t) fit in anywhere.’

“He was like, ‘Trust me, you’ll fit in here.’”

And by Wednesday afternoon, there was visual proof that Suggs was a Chief.

Suggs said that even without Reid’s assurances, it would have been a pretty easy decision.

”It’s hard to turn down (playing with) the reigning MVP and a playoff team, the exciting things they’re doing, this atmosphere,” he said. “Hopefully I can come in and contribute right off the bat. This was a team that was a penalty away from the Super Bowl last year so they’re not missing much. Hopefully I can add that extra addition that we can kind of potentially do something special.”

For Reid, getting Suggs was an obvious move for his team.

“You’re talking about an experienced guy who has been there and done it,” he told reporters. “He has 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. That’s what he brings to you.”

But Reid said there were some caveats.

“You have to make sure that they still can play, that’s important,” he explained. “Then, how do they fit into 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 into that? You don’t want to bring somebody in that’s going to disrupt things. That’s not where you’re at right now. Brett looks at all of that. We’re fortunate to have Steve Spagnuolo here who knows him. Tyrann Mathieu knows him. That was a plus.”

Reid noted that it was general manager Brett Veach who made the decision, but that Veach sought input from others.

“He checks with everybody,” said Reid. “He made sure that he checked with Steve, and Steve goes, ‘Guy loves football and he’s a great teammate.’ That’s all Brett needed to hear. The rest was him making it happen.”

Spagnuolo knows Suggs from the time he was a defensive coach with the Ravens in 2013 and 2014.

“He does know the stuff that Spags does,” said Reid. “They were together at the Ravens. I would say ‘plug-and-play,’ but there are things that he also has to go back and review. He is a meticulous note-taker and he studies. He is very passionate about making sure that he knows everything — not only about his play, but how he goes about his business. He was digging in this morning and getting everything down, making sure that he has all of the ins and outs of the defense down.”

And according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes — who played against Suggs while he was still with the Ravens in 2018 — the new Chiefs defender is just as knowledgeable about the teams he faces.

“I remember they were blitzing away from him,” Mahomes recalled. “I knew he was dropping, but I was trying to check into a different play. I don’t know if he had seen it from weeks before, but I went to throw the ball, and he was right where I wanted to throw the ball.

“That just shows the film study and preparation he puts into the game,” Mahomes continued. “He has the experience to disrupt what the quarterbacks want to do.”

In his new Chiefs uniform, that will continue to be Suggs’ job.