As he prepares for his 14th NFL season, Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs insists he is in perhaps in the finest physical shape of his career thanks to a healthier diet.
Suggs, 33, is known as a large, menacing force on the field, wreaking havoc against opposing team’s offenses and altering games with his stellar performances. He is the franchise’s all-time sacks leaders (106.5), was named the 2011 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year and led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XLVII four seasons ago.
But coming off a year during which he played one game after suffering an Achillies tendon tear — the second of his career — in the 2015 season opener, Suggs is intent on returning to his dominant form even if it means giving up some of his favorite foods — which includes gelfilte fish.
For the time being, Suggs, the longest-tenured Raven, has cut his intake of the Jewish holiday favorite, among other tasty selections, as part of his new diet and workout regimen.
“I’m not a big fan of food, but when I do eat, I like to eat,” Suggs said Aug. 18 during a news conference. “I like my fried chicken, my pizza, my peaches and my gefilte fish. I had to cut all that out. I still eat the peaches and a little bit of the fish, but that’s about it.”
While that’s likely refreshing news to the Ravens, it comes as a bit of a surprise to some local deli owners.
Mark Horowitz, co-owner of the Suburban House, noted Suggs would often frequent his Pikesville establishment to get his fix of whitefish. Although he can’t recall the last time Suggs was at his restaurant, Horowitz said Suggs’ business will be greatly missed.
“How many football players eat gefilte fish? Look, we all know certain players enjoy certain foods, and that just happens to be his,” Horowitz said. “I hope he comes around to eating more gefilte fish again sooner rather than later.”
Alan Smith, owner of Lenny’s Deli, said Suggs is a regular at his Owings Mills location but has yet to purchase any gefilte fish from the restaurant since it is only offered during the holidays.
But if and when Suggs decides to increase his consumption of the traditional Ashkenazi dish, Smith may just have a special order waiting for him.
“I think it’s pretty neat that he knows just what [gefilte fish] is,” Smith said. “I asked my manager the other day if [Suggs] had been in lately, so maybe I should set aside some gefilte fish for him sometime when we have it.”
When asked which brand of gefilte fish Suggs prefers, a Ravens spokesman declined to comment.
Interestingly, Suggs has developed a Jewish history during his time in Baltimore. Suggs considers himself “half-Jewish” and even went as far as to get a Star of David tattoo on his right arm after the 2009 season to prove his faith.
“I had to rededicate myself to the game,” Suggs said at the time. “I had a lot of things I was dealing with, so I pretty much got this tattoo, just kind of, to remind me of who I am, the real me.”
If Suggs’ approach now is anything like it was back then to his faith, both he and the Ravens could be in store for a big season.
“He’s in excellent condition,” head coach John Harbaugh said at the Aug. 18 news conference. “He’s been away for a while, and he’s like, ‘I really love this. I love playing football. I love being a part of the team.’ He’s just been great with the players. Of course, the energy level, the things he says, they’re just irreplaceable.”
Suggs’ favorite fish has also been on the agenda of none other than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. One of her emails released by the State Department last year caught the eyes of many Jews.
“Gefilte fish” read the subject of the 2010 email, sent to two top aides. Its body contained a simple question: ”Where are we on this?”
Apparently the issue at stake was a shipment of carp (a crucial gefilte fish ingredient) to Israel that had been blocked due to tariff issues just before Passover, when Jews traditionally enjoy the pungent patties. Fortunately, Clinton was able to pull strings to get the cargo approved, ensuring that no seders in Israel would go without the beloved dish.
JTA contributed to this report.