OWINGS MILLS (Md. — The defending Super Bowl Champion was crowned in the spring 2001.They held their first minicamp without one notable absence.
Tony Siragusa — a.k.a. “the Goose” — wasn’t in the defensive line meeting room. However, his teammates heard that he was going to make a big splash. The team heard a loud bang. Everyone raced to the practice field.
Siragusa arrived by helicopter and landed on the 50-yard line. The boisterous, 350-pound defensive tackle got out of the helicopter and began to hammer it up in front his teammates, pointing to his right biceps.
“That was classic,” former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams said. “And [coach Brian] Billick was just sitting there with his mouth open like, ‘Why me?’”
Siragusa,, may not have made any Pro Bowls or the Ravens’ Ring of Honor during or after his 12 seasons in the NFL, but teammates attest to his irrepressible and irreplaceable legacy: Siragusa was a Hall of Fame character.
Siragusa was often overlooked for his field-running prowess, but he ensured everyone saw and heard the man in the locker area and in front cameras. Even though the Ravens team mourns Siragusa's passing, their teammates know Siragusa wanted them to remember him smiling.
“He would expect a roast to go on right now at his funeral,” said former Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who was Siragusa’s teammate for five seasons. “He would love it.”
There's no hiding behind humor
Stover was one the most reliable kickers in the NFL. Siragusa helped Stover become thicker than others.
Stover would be sent by the Ravens for a winning kick. Siragusa would curse at Stover, yell and threaten him from the sideline.
“Listen, you [expletive], if you miss this kick, don’t come back to this sideline because I will hurt you,” Siragusa would say.
Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ longtime head of public relations, asked Stover if the trash talk helped. “No, but it does make me smile,” Stover responded.
Stover stated that he liked the extra pressure Siragusa gave him. Siragusa was asked by Stover to do all he could for him at one practice.
So the Goose took his pants down and mooned him.
Siragusa’s no-holds-barred sense of humor helped with more than field goals. During that 2000 championship season, the Ravens didn’t score a touchdown for the whole month of October. The offense failed to score in five games straight and the defense gave up just four touchdowns. This could have created division.
“Without him, we would not have won that Super Bowl because that locker room could have turned so easily,” Stover said. “He kept it loose. He’d break the ice in the room. The guy was a tremendous force in the locker room.”
Everyone was a target
Siragusa was an undrafted rookie who entered the NFL. His pride in making the NFL hard way is what made him a bad choice for big-name rookies. He warned them to not park their expensive cars near his car as he would open it wildly and make dents.
Siragusa hated weigh ins so he made rookies fill out the chart over the scale.
“Put whatever you want,” Siragusa said on the inaugural season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. “Put 215 [pounds]. Let’s freak them out a little bit. Lost 900 pounds — today!”
Siragusa made teammates feel special because he laughed about everyone, even coaches. When then-defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis lost out on the Bills’ head coaching job, Siragusa asked him, “What are you going to do with all the snowblowers you bought?”
Siragusa was dangerous to all. To harass rookies, Siragusa brought paint guns into training camp in 2001. After Billick threatened Siragusa with a gun and asked him to stop, an ornery defensive lineman shot at a custodian who was trying to clean paint from a wall on the second floor.
Siragusa pulled out a roll from his wallet and gave it to the hotel worker, who was furious at being pushed down the ladder. The custodian smiled.
“He was just the life of every room he came into,” former Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware said.
It is not good with it
Siragusa didn’t get penalized when he drove Rich Gannon into the turf, forcing the Raiders quarterback out of the 2000 AFC championship game. However, he was fined $15,000 by Phil Simms, a TV analyst.
During the telecast of the game, Simms was emphatic that Siragusa should’ve been flagged because, in Simms' view, he was trying to hurt Gannon — a claim Siragusa believed prompted the league to punish him.
Siragusa walked over Simms during a Super Bowl production meeting two weeks later and said that he owed $15,000. When Simms said he wasn’t going to be intimidated, Siragusa asked Simms about the progress of his home being built in New Jersey.
“How do you know that?,” Simms asked.
Siragusa, who is from New Jersey, responded: “Let me tell you this: When you’re missing $15,000 worth of shrubs, you’ll know where they are.”
Siragusa was taken off the field during a match against the Taliban in October 2000.I was left with a badly bruised spine and went to the local hospital.
“We picked him up and put him in the stretcher,” Adams said. “I’m having tears in my eyes when they wheel him off the field. Then, I see him come back in the game and I’m thinking to myself: ‘What the hell is going on?’”
Siragusa was advised not to go back in the game, but he decided to ignore the advice because he didn’t want to let down his teammates. That commitment to his fellow players didn’t get as much attention as his wise-cracking barbs.
An accidental fire set fire to the apartment of Fernando Smith, the Ravens' defensive end, on Christmas Eve 1999. Siragusa arrived with clothing and toys worth $10,000, as well as a car full of toys for the children.
“He took care of teammates,” Byrne said. “He had a generous heart.”
Siragusa spent all of his $1,000 signing bonus on the NFL when he signed up.At a bar. He announced his retirement twelve years later at a bar as part of his weekly radio show.
“I’ve had a lot of fun, a lot of memories,” Siragusa said in January 2002. “I feel like I’m going to have to wake up and pinch myself because I’ve had so much fun in my career. If anyone has as much fun in one year that I’ve had in 12, they’ll be very happy.”