Ravens mourn loss of Jaylon Ferguson, Tony Siragusa: ‘Tremendously sad day’

Jaylon Ferguson believed this was going to be his breakout season for the Ravens. He said that to teammate Patrick Queen, the two bonded during extended sessions in the sauna that turned into discussions of their careers. He recently had a similar talk with cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who asked when the NFL was going to be introduced to “Sack Daddy,” the nickname given to Ferguson as he was becoming the Football Bowl Subdivision’s all-time sack leader while at Louisiana Tech.

Just a week ago at the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp, Ferguson had teammates calling his name from the sideline after he got around the corner and was in position to sack Lamar Jackson. A few plays later, Ferguson tweaked his ankle. He hurried to the sideline, had his ankle retaped and immediately made a move to return to the field. His progress was stopped by a member of the team’s athletic training staff who told the outside linebacker there were only a few more plays left in the practice period and there was no need to rush back.

Ferguson lost a considerable amount of weight and had remade his body with visions of being faster and more explosive. The early returns were good.

“Before I left after minicamp in the locker room, he expressed how he was ready to have a big year, and I believed it was going to be his best season as a Raven,” Ravens veteran safety Tony Jefferson said. “He will be watching over us, I know it, and he will bring the team closer just from his mark he left. He will definitely be missed.”

Just before midnight Monday, Ferguson was found unresponsive in a home in the Harwood neighborhood of Baltimore City, according to a police spokesperson. He was treated by medics, but he never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the Baltimore City police, there were no signs of trauma found and foul play wasn’t suspected. Investigators are not ruling out the possibility of an overdose. Ferguson’s body was taken to the medical examiner’s office, where an autopsy will be performed and a cause of death determined.

Ferguson, a third-round pick in 2019 who was preparing for his fourth NFL season, was 26 years old. He and his fiancee, Doni Smith, have three kids, all under the age of 5.

“My heart is broken for Jaylon and his family,” Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard said. “This doesn’t feel real as I write these words. Life is too short to not cherish every moment and every person. Jaylon is someone I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

In an early morning post on their official Twitter feed, the Ravens called Ferguson “a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and infectious personality” and mourned “a life lost much too soon.” Ravens players and coaches, spread out across the country after the conclusion of last week’s minicamp, struggled to process the news. They remembered Ferguson as a good teammate who loved being around his family.

“He wanted to be better for himself and his kids,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “He was so excited every time he had a new kid who was about to be born. He always talked about them and how he plays for them.”

About eight hours after the Ferguson news broke, the Ravens organization was forced to cope with another big loss. Tony Siragusa, a defensive tackle who played five of his 12 NFL seasons in Baltimore and was a key cog on its 2000 record-setting defense that carried the organization to its first Super Bowl win, died unexpectedly at his New Jersey home. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

Known as “Goose,” he was 55 years old.

“This is a tough one,” former Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “I love Goose like a brother. From the first day we met, I knew that life was different. I knew he was someone who would change my life forever. He was a one-of-a-kind person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace a man like that.”

About a month earlier, Siragusa was in Baltimore for a celebration of the 2000 Super Bowl champions, who will be the subject of an ESPN “30 for 30” production early next year. On a stage with Hall of Famers Lewis, Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson, the gregarious and fun-loving Siragusa was in his element, telling stories and generating laughter from teammates, coaches and fans.

“Tony was always the life of the party,” Woodson said.

“There was no one like Goose — a warrior on the field and a team unifier with a giving, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know,” former Ravens head coach Brian Billick said. “We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such stunning, sad news, and our hearts go out to (wife) Kathy and the Siragusa family.”

Siragusa started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 1990. He joined Baltimore in 1997, playing his final five seasons with the Ravens and retiring after 2001. At 6-foot-3 and 330 pounds, Siragusa teamed with the also-massive Sam Adams to plug the middle and prevent blockers from reaching Lewis.

He was a dominant run defender, but more than that, he was known for his larger-than-life personality and his outspoken ways. Quick with a joke, both verbal and practical, Siragusa kept things loose, chiding and entertaining coaches, teammates and reporters for years. It was no surprise that Siragusa, a New Jersey native, got into broadcasting after his playing career ended and even did some acting, appearing in the popular HBO show, “The Sopranos.”

“Renee and I are stunned and heartbroken to learn about the sudden passing of Tony Siragusa,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said. “He was a special person and clearly one of the most popular players in Ravens history.”

Bisciotti called Wednesday “a tremendously sad day for the Baltimore Ravens,” and recognized the “outpouring of support” given to players, coaches and staff members.

The Ravens’ inaugural season in Baltimore was in 1996 and several longtime followers of the organization acknowledged that Wednesday was one of the most difficult days in franchise history.

In less than 15 hours, the only typically quiet stretch on the NFL calendar was interrupted by the deaths of one of their current players and a former one who maintained extensive ties to the organization.

Former Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who is now the team’s director of player engagement, summed up the difficulty of the day on his Twitter account, writing, “Today hurts.”

(Photo of Jaylon Ferguson: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

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