It’s not every day that questions about a player acquired through the waiver wire take up more than half of a weekly press session with Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
But then again, when it happens in Week 16 of a season where the Chiefs are suddenly playing like a genuine Super Bowl contender — and the player involved has long record as a defensive playmaker — maybe it isn’t so surprising.
Spagnuolo said he had watched a little bit of video of the last game his new defensive end Terrell Suggs had played with the Arizona Cardinals.
”In the plays that I saw, I didn’t see a big drop-off, in my opinion,” he told reporters. “The guy is strong, physical, he sets the edge of the defense — all that’s still there.”
Spagnuolo — who knows Suggs from the two years he spent as a defensive coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and 2014 — didn’t need to see a lot.
“Look, I know him,” he explained. “I know what he’s all about. I just think he’s been a great addition.”
Spagnuolo said that Suggs stood out to him during his first season with the Ravens.
“The first year I was there, I just kind of floated,” he recalled. “I was basically just close to John Harbaugh; we bounced things off of each other. So I got to sit in a lot of different meetings. I found myself gravitating to the outside linebacker meeting room where Terrell Suggs was, because I found those meetings — Ted Monachino was the coach at the time — to be very engaging. To be perfectly honest, [they were] very informative to me.”
And in those meetings, Suggs stood out.
“Part of it was because of his interaction.” Spagnuolo said of Suggs. “Talking football and how much he wanted to know about what we would do and what the other team was doing — not just what he was doing. He wanted to know it all. He was a sponge. He absorbed it.”
And on Suggs’ first day of work at his new job on Wednesday, his department manager saw the same characteristics.
“He got in here late the other night,” said Spagnuolo. “Then he came in here yesterday. I don’t know how much sleep he had — not very much. The most impressive thing — I think all our players got the eyeballs on it, too — he [came] in the meeting, he had a spiral notebook and he was taking notes. That’s Terrell Suggs. He’s a pro. He wants to do well. He knows that knowing the defense is part of it.”
Although Spagnuolo said he didn’t think it would take long to get his new player acclimatized to his scheme, he expects Suggs will have fewer snaps until he is.
”It’ll be a little less — at least initially,” he said. “And then we’ll just see. I’m always careful now. In all the years in this business — all of a sudden, you’ve got an injury here and an injury there and everything changes. We’ll see how it progresses. Hopefully, we can build it up enough we can get him in for as many plays as we need him.”
And Spagnuolo said that will be the goal: to use Suggs as more than just a situational pass rusher.
“I think we’ll use him wherever we can,” he said. “Initially here, it’s going to be grasping hold of the terminology more than anything — I mean, we’re not that far off from the things he’s been doing — but it’s not going to be, ‘Hey, you’re only going in on third down.’ Where he can help us, he’ll help us.”
But however much he plays, the Chiefs are also counting on Suggs to let his postseason experience — including a Super Bowl championship — rub off on their young roster.
“My guess is that our players will lean on him [for his] experience on how to handle it — which is tremendous,” said Spagnuolo. “It’s one thing coming from coaches — to say, ‘Hey, here’s what you’ve got to do. When you get to this part of the season, how much faster the game gets,’ et cetera. It’s a whole different story when a player conveys that to you. And I think he’ll be able to do that. He played in a lot of playoff games.”
The Chiefs are hoping to add three or four more to his total in the next month or so.