Mike Preston: Saddest day in Ravens history, remember what Tony Siragusa brought to Baltimore

June 22, 2022, has become the saddest and longest day in the history of the Ravens.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced that linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was out for the fourth year. died at the age of 26 Officers found him unresponsive at a home in North Baltimore late Tuesday.

Earlier in the evening, a team spokesperson confirmed that the former Ravens tackle Tony Siragusa on the defensive. died at the age of 55, The cause of death could not be immediately ascertained.

The impact of this news was felt throughout the organization.

“Just a tough, tough day,” said former Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware, Siragusa’s one-time teammate in the 2000 team that won the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

“We will get through this. My prayers are with this team and this organization. We are what we are.”

In the Ravens’ 26-year history, only few exemplify ferocity better than the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Siragusa. At the same time he became the voice for a team in search of leadership.

Some Older Baltimore Colts Fans Compare to Siragusa Late Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle Art DonovanBut Donovan was the jovial kind.

Siragusa may be loud, obnoxious, vicious, pleasant and witty, but he was a great companion. If you took a cheap shot at any of the Ravens, you’d have to answer to Siragusa or his top henchman, defensive end Rob Burnett.

“First of all, my deepest condolences to his family,” Marvin Lewis, architect and coordinator of the 2000 Ravens record-setting defense, said in a statement. “With Tony as a friend and teammate, you didn’t need another. He played and lived life to the fullest. He always reminded me to have fun.”

This was the nature of Siragusa. He had a larger-than-life personality and could brighten up any room. The locker room was his domain. If you were a reporter and your clothes didn’t match, Siragusa was a joke.

If you didn’t comb your hair, Siragusa was about to pick you up. If your shirt was too tight, he would ask why you were wearing your younger brother’s T-shirt.

No one was spared from anger or mockery. Neither the media, nor his teammates, nor coach Brian Bilick.

“If he looked at you, something was going to come out of his mouth,” Boulware said. “The stare was deadly.”

I would meet with Siragusa, Burnett, defensive end Michael McCurry and security Benny Thompson two or three times a week on these exchanges. Siragusa was relentless in tracking people down. He once called me at home on his radio show and told me I was an idiot. The next day we would fight and then the next day we would hang out in the locker room again.

Players of the time loved to joke, and they would respect you if you talked as uselessly as they did. The wit and outgoing personality inspired Siragusa to become a TV commentator and later a sideline reporter for Fox’s NFL coverage.

But here’s a side of Siragusa that few got to see.

“When I was a rookie and moved to Baltimore, I was lucky to live on the same street with Tony, so he’d take me home and his wife would cook me dinner,” said former Ravens weak linebacker Jamie Sharper. Told. “Tony was a fun guy, and everyone loved and looked up to him – the media and his peers – but I got to see him as a good family man.”

Sharper hadn’t seen Siragusa in nearly three years, but they reunited on May 23 at the 2000 Super Bowl team reunion. He said that occasion allowed him to hug Siragusa and take a picture with him for the last time.

“While we were playing, Tony would open his businesses for us,” Sharper said, fighting back tears. “He didn’t care what color you were, where you lived, what profession you were in, he treated everyone the same. And yes, he made fun of everyone.”

But Siragusa came to Baltimore for a special reason. At the end of the 1996 season, then-Ravens general manager Ozzy Newsom walked into the shed on the old campus on the other side of Owings Mills and delivered a message.

“Mike,” said Newsom, “during the offseason, I’m going to bring in a big-ass lineman to anchor me in the middle of the defense. Write it down and remember what I told you.”

Enter Tony Siragusa.

The Ravens finished 6-9-1 that season, but they were starting to build up a great defense with three young promising linebackers in the middle at Boulware, Sharpe and Ray Lewis.

That trio will go down in history as one of the best ever in the NFL. Lewis is the greatest linebacker of all time, but that defensive line propelled the team into 2000.

Talk about tough guys?

McCurry and Burnett at the ends, and Siragusa and Sam Adams, two sumo wrestlers, in tackles. No one ran on this defense, giving away only 165 points in 16 games that season.

Adams could interrupt ongoing plays and put pressure on the quarterback with an explosive first move. Meanwhile, Siragusa could capture two or three offensive linemen to keep Lewis away.

Forget the Siragusa stats.

He made a total of 159 tackles in his five seasons in Baltimore, while Lewis made 768 tackles during that period. Siragusa’s signing moment came when he fielded Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon in the 2000 AFC Championship Game.

Gannon suffered a shoulder injury and Siragusa was eventually fined $10,000 for an illegal hit, which he said was not done on purpose immediately after the Ravens’ victory.

But about a month later, when I asked him if it was a deliberate slam, he blinked and replied: “What do you think?”

That was the vintage Siragusa. He worked hard and lived that way too. He was an extremely athletic and mobile big guy who could talk a lot of smack and back it.

He “played like a raven,” a term first used by former coach Ted Marchibroda. Few players have been as fierce and competitive.

And no Raven has laughed as much.

“I can’t believe Hans is gone. He was more than a teammate, he was my brother,” McCurry said. “There were Hans, Burnett and I, we were the D-line, but so much more. We were always there for each other and he always managed to put a smile on my face, no matter how bad things seemed.

“There are so many memories. I will never think of him without smiling, and I will miss him. Look at the gatekeepers of heaven, the swans on the way and heaven will never be the same.”

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