Tony Siragusa, the NFL defensive tackle who became one of the game’s greatest players and personalities, died on Wednesday at the age of 55.
The cause of Siragusa’s death was not immediately clear.
Siragusa, affectionately known as “Goose”, served as an important cog in the middle of the Baltimore Ravens’ historic defense from 2000, which led the franchise’s first Super Bowl title that season. He began his 12-year career drinking away his $ 1,000 signing bonus as an unsolicited free agent, leaving the game as one of its unique personalities known for his irreverent sense of humor and memorable pranks.
“There was no one like Goose – a warrior on the field and a teammate with a rewarding, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know,” said former Ravens coach Brian Billick. “We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such wonderful, sad news, and our hearts go out to the Kathy and Siragusa family.”
Before joining the Ravens as a free agent in 1997, Siragusa spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts. Colts own Jim Irsay twitret that he was “heartbroken like the entire Colts Nation.” Irsay added in a follow-up tweet that “The Goose pushed 200 fun years into 55!”
The Goose pushed 200 fun years into 55 !! He was one of the most physically strong players I have ever seen in 50 years💪🏼🏈 In Greece, they asked one question at the end of life; Did he have a passion? In Tony’s case..Yes he did !! 💪🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️
– Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) June 22, 2022
Siragusa, known as a blue-collar driver, liked that his biggest moment came at a quarterback hit. In the 2000 AFC Championship Game, Siragusa took out Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, driving the All-Pro onto the grass and parting his left shoulder. The Ravens beat the Raiders, 16-3, to advance to the Super Bowl.
“I saw Rich’s eyes roll back,” Siragusa said at the time. “He got every pound of my thick ass on him.”
As much as Siragusa enjoyed the spotlight off the field, he was comfortable doing the dirty work for one of the NFL’s top defenses, even though it led to countless knee surgeries and no Pro Bowl invitations. A 6-foot-3, 340-pound wall in the middle, Siragusa occupied double teams to allow midfielder Ray Lewis to move freely and helped Baltimore set league records for the fewest points (165) and rushing yards (970) in a 16-game season.
“This is a tough one,” Lewis said. “I love Goose as a brother. From the first day we met, I knew life was different. I knew he was someone who would change my life forever. He was a unique person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace such a man. “
Kicker Matt Stover said: “I really think the Super Bowl XXXV team would never have been as good as it was without Tony. Not only did he connect up the middle, but his presence in the locker room created a loose environment when it was cramped. He wants to be missed but not forgotten. “
Teammates will remember Siragusa for his infamous practical jokes.
Once upon a time some of the younger players made a big pot of cocoa in the gym and Siragusa saw an opportunity to add it with laxative before training. Siragusa laughed as the players hurried off the field.
“They say there’s a person like you everywhere, but I think God created a goose with that personality,” said former Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster.
In the first “Hard Knocks”, Siragusa delivered one of the best moments when he barricaded the tight ends of their meeting room with a table. Sharpe famously declared that he wanted “restitution”, and he stole Siragusa’s truck to get an apology.
Siragusa’s commitment to his team was clear in 2000, when he was blocked, fell to the ground and could not feel a part of his body. His mother came running down from the stands and his older brothers asked to the cloakroom where a golf cart had moved the immovable big man.
“From the head down I could not move,” Siragusa later recalled. “It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
The medical staff told Siragusa that he must at least have an MRI to ensure that there was no damage to the spine. He had a bruised spine and was advised not to return. But he did not follow that advice.
In Siragusa: “[Defensive line] Coach Rex Ryan came up to me and said ‘You have a family. Do not go back there. I said, ‘You are my family too. I have to do this. “
Ryan, now an ESPN analyst, said on Wednesday that “Tony was one of the best people I have ever met” and that “it was impossible to have a bad day around him.”
After his retirement, Siragusa was a sideline analyst for Fox Sports from 2003 to 2015. He also had some acting roles, appearing in “The Sopranos” and Spike Lee’s film, “25th Hour.”
“This is a really sad day,” Siragusa’s broadcasting agent Jim Ornstein told The Associated Press. “Tony was much more than my client, he was family. My heart goes out to Tony’s loved ones.”
Siragusa’s death continued a sad day for the Ravens, who announced the death of outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson earlier in the day. He was 26 years old.
“This is an incredibly sad day for the Baltimore Ravens,” said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. “We appreciate everyone who has expressed a stream of support to our players, coaches and staff.”