The Baltimore Ravens have had several legendary and iconic players during the franchise’s first quarter century-plus of existence, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
While they haven’t officially retired any jersey numbers as of yet, there are certain ones where it is understood that they are just off limits because they belonged to current or future Hall of Famers that played the entirety or at least the vast majority of their career with the organization.
One of the five numbers that haven’t been worn since their previous owners hung up their cleats is No. 55 which was dawned and made synonymous with dominance by retired outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
It was also the number that current Ravens’ edge defender David Ojabo wore in college at Michigan and was hoping to switch to heading into his second season but wasn’t given permission to wear by Suggs himself.
“Suggs (is) not letting me man,” Ojabo told reporters during a press conference on May 17, 2023. “We had discussions, man, got (Ravens Owner Steve) Bisciotti involved a little bit. That’s above me.”
Drafted No. 10 overall in the 2003 NFL draft out of Arizona State University, Suggs spent the first 16 years of his career with the Ravens before splitting his last between the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
Nicknamed T-Sizzle, he was one of the best defenders of his generation whose career accomplishments include being a seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time Super Bowl champion, Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and the franchise’s all-time sack leader and ranks eighth all-time in sacks among official leaders according to Pro Football Reference.
“He’s a legend, so I’ll stick with 90,” Ojabo said. “I had to try, but he’s not going for it.”
The other four numbers that are unofficially retired for the Ravens are No. 52 which was worn by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis (1996-2012), No. 2o which was worn by Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed (2002-2012), No. 75 which was worn by Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (1996-2007), and No. 73 which was worn by future Hall of Fame offensive guard Marshal Yanda (2007-2019).
Ojabo is Bigger, Stronger, Faster & ‘110 Percent’ Healthy
The Ravens selected him No. 45 overall in the 2022 NFL draft but he was slated to be a top 15 pick like Suggs prior to suffering a torn Achilles during his pro day that caused him to miss all but two games in his rookie season.
“I’ve never been injured before. I’ve never had to just sit down,” Ojabo said. It tested my patience, but it was definitely for the better. I’m back 110 percent.”
At just 23 years old and heading into his second season in the league, he has a long way to go before he can get measured for or even considered for a gold jacket and after logging just one sack as a rookie, he is 131.5 away from the tying the franchise record.
However, after spending his first year in the league working his way back from injury, he is looking better than ever after being able to start this offseason healthy.
“I was actually talking to somebody out there today, he looks great,” defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said. “I feel like he’s put on some good weight and looks stronger and looks fast right now, and more than anything, mentally, I think he’s in a great spot, as well.”
He was also the defensive play caller during Ojabo’s final and best season in college when he recorded a career-high 11 sacks according to Sports Reference. The team has high hopes for the kind of impact he can have in an expanded role and they don’t believe his rookie year was a complete wash but rather something he can build off of.
“Of course we have big visions for ‘Ja’ and the things that we want him to be able to do,” Macdonald said. “I just don’t look at last year as a setback. He’s here and he’s developed. He had all this time to learn the scheme, learn the drills, build the foundation [and] get physically stronger. Mentally, he’s in a great spot so I think it’s all positive.”
Ojabo said he’s tired of hearing about his injury and believes that he is ready to show what he can do on the field now that it is behind him.
“Honestly I’m tired of hearing about it,” he said. “It’s in my past, I’ve grown from it. It’s made me stronger. I’m ready to move on from it. I’m 110%. I honestly feel better. I feel more explosive. I’m excited.”
Ojabo Poised to Break Out With More Opportunities
The Ravens opened the 2022 season with a dearth of healthy depth at outside linebacker but by the time Ojabo was healthy enough to see the field, there was a bit of a logjam at the position with 2021 first-rounder Odafe Oweh, last year’s sack leader Justin Houston, veteran Jason Pierre-Paul, and veteran Tyus Bowser.
With both Houston and Pierre-Paul still sitting on the open market unsigned, he is slated to see the field early and often in his second season and is chomping to show off the hard work he has put in since the season ended.
“I’m just excited for him to show everybody who he really is, as a player, as a person,” Oweh said. “We’ve been working together in the offseason. You can just tell, he was motivated. He had an inner drive to prove something, not just to himself, but to everybody.”
The lone sack of his rookie season came against the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season finale. He was able to not only take down but also dislodge the ball from the grasp of Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow for a forced fumble.
“It kind of made me feel like I belong, got me more excited for this season,” Ojabo said.
Even if he doesn’t win the starting RUSH outside linebacker spot opposite of Bowser, he will still see the field early and often in a regular rotation with Oweh or as a situational pass rusher.
Since Oweh began rushing some from the interior late last season, the two former high school teammates could on the field at the same time and relive some of their Blair Academy days on obvious passing downs.