OWINGS MILLS — Reporters chuckled for a couple of seconds when Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs stepped to the podium wearing a purple shirt that read the words “Can’t Wait” on it.
The phrase “Can’t Wait” comes from Jets linebacker Bart Scott’s post-game interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio after New York upset the Patriots in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs.
So when Suggs wore the shirt, the assumption was that he was talking trash to Scott, his former mentor that used to be on the Baltimore roster.
“I’m sending a message to my brother and former mentor, that I also, ‘Can’t Wait,’” Suggs said.
While initially assumed to be a Here We Go moment from Suggs, that wouldn’t be the case. While Suggs’ words indicated mockery, he was actually doing Scott a favor. After Scott’s infamous phrase, which he later copyrighted, he decided to put the two words to good use. Scott began creating “Can’t Wait” t-shirts to sell so he could help raise money for Rutgers defensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who suffered a severe spinal injury on a kickoff play against Army in 2010.
The injury left LeGrand paralyzed with little chance to walk again. Scott, with the help of Suggs, running back Ray Rice (who left Rutgers the year before LeGrand enrolled) and those close to him in New York, has raised $36,000 for LeGrand’s rehabilitation costs. Scott delivered a check to LeGrand recently.
“Yeah, it’s for a good cause,” Suggs said. “(Scott and I are) close friends, I love him as a brother. I put the shirt on.”
Back to football; Suggs added: “But on Sunday night it will be two fighters trying to settle a fight.”
Scott made plenty of green “Can’t Wait” shirts to represent the Jets. But because he has friends in Baltimore, he created a purple design too.
“That version is a Baltimore version, that’s why it has Baltimore colors,” Scott said. “For the guys here in New York, it was New York colors. So I kept it just in the two cities where I knew that people knew me and where I have played and spent time at.”
Said Rice: “I’ll be the first to support the ‘Can’t Wait’ campaign.”
The Ravens-Jets rivalry is interesting because there’s no bad blood or ill will between the two teams, even though they may talk like it. There’s a case to be made that the Jets can be considered “Baltimore North,” considering five coaches and three players there used to be affiliated with the Ravens.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan was once the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was with Baltimore from 2002-08, coaching outside linebackers in his final four years with the franchise. Jets defensive line coach Mark Carrier coached Ravens’ defensive backs from 2006-09. Jets quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator from 1999-2004. And Jets defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman was with the Ravens from 2002-07, coaching the secondary in his final four years with the team.
Then there’s Scott, who played with Baltimore from 2002-08, Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who played with Baltimore in 2008, and wide receiver Derrick Mason, who’s Baltimore’s all-time leader in receptions (471) and receiving yards (5,777).
“There’s a little background to everything,” Suggs said. “We have tremendous respect and love for them but we have a job to do. They’re in the way of what we’re trying to get. They see us as being in their way.”
It’s been publicized that Ryan wanted the Ravens job when it opened in 2008. Instead, the Ravens hired John Harbaugh, who’s been to the playoffs the past three seasons. Ryan then took the Jets head coaching job in 2009.
“I will say this: we all talk about it, because look, I was (in Baltimore) 10 years,” Ryan said in a conference call. “I have a ton of friends there and the utmost respect for them and all that, but the fact of the matter is we all said we were going to meet in the AFC Championship Game. Now, we haven’t won the AFC Championship Game, but we have gotten there two years in a row — the Ravens haven’t. You could throw that one right back at them as well.”
Linebacker Ray Lewis responded: “He was sitting in the same place I was sitting watching the Super Bowl. He had to be, because he wasn’t in it. … Going to AFC Championships, going to the playoffs — I have done all of that. At the end of the day, the only thing I remember the most is when I touched that confetti in 2000.”
Ryan’s words, on the surface, would appear a bit malicious, and some fans may take offense to them. But at the end of the day, there’s still a lasting impression Ryan has made on Suggs and the veteran defenders to this day.
“I don’t know what the man’s message was,” Suggs said. “He just made me a tough son of a (expletive). I didn’t whoop much (expletive) before he (coached me). And since he had me I went to four Pro Bowls and signed a long term deal, and whooped plenty of (expletive).”
Though he praised his old coach and is helping to raise awareness for Scott’s “Can’t Wait” campaign, Suggs still made it a point that there’s nothing better than beating a rival, especially one that could be considered a brother.
“This is a rivalry, please believe it,” Suggs said. “We have a personal relationship — pause. Come Sunday night, (Scott’s) my enemy. There’s respect there. There’s love there. But on Sunday night, he’s the enemy. And Rex is the enemy king.”
(The infamous Bart Scott “Can’t Wait” clip:)
By Jason Butt