Tony Siragusa, the NFL defensive tackle who became one of the game’s greatest players and personalities, died Wednesday at the age of 55.
Siragusa’s cause of death was not immediately available.
Affectionately known as the “Goose,” Siragusa served as a vital cog in the historic Baltimore Ravens midfield defense in 2000, which spearheaded the franchise’s first Super Bowl title that same season. He began his 12-year career drinking down his $1,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent and left the game as one of his unique personalities, known for his irreverent sense of humor and his memorable pranks.
“There was no one like Goose – a warrior on the pitch and a team builder with a generous heart who helped his teammates and the community more than most people know,” said the former coach of the Ravens, Brian Billick. “We wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such beautiful and sad news, and our hearts go out to Kathy and the 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. Jim Irsay, owner of the Colts tweeted that he was “heartbroken, like all Colts Nation”. Irsay added in a follow-up tweet that, “The Goose has reduced 200 years of fun to 55!!”
The Goose has turned 200 years of fun love into 55!! He was one of the most physically strong players I’ve seen in 50 years 💪🏼🏈 In Greece you asked 1 question at the end of his life; Did he have passion? In Tony’s case..Yes he did!! 💪🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️
—Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) June 22, 2022
Known as a blue-collar workaholic, Siragusa enjoyed his greatest moment coming on a quarterback hit. In the 2000 AFC Championship Game, Siragusa knocked out Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, driving the All-Pro into the turf and separating his left shoulder. The Ravens then beat the Raiders, 16-3, to qualify for the Super Bowl.
“I saw Rich’s eyes roll back,” Siragusa said at the time. “He put every pound of my fat ass on him.”
Although Siragusa relished the spotlight off the court, 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 invitation to the Pro. Bowl. A 6-foot-3, 340-pound wall down the middle, Siragusa held double teams to allow center linebacker Ray Lewis free movement and helped Baltimore set league records for fewest runs (165) and rushing yards (970) in a 16-game season.
“It’s tough,” Lewis said. “I love Goose like a brother. From the first day we met, I knew life was different. I knew he was someone who was going to 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.
Kicker Matt Stover said: “I truly believe the Super Bowl XXXV team would never have been this good without Tony. He not only plugged in the middle, but his presence in the locker room created a loose environment when the things were tight. We will miss him, but we won’t forget him.”
His teammates will remember Siragusa for his notorious jokes.
There was a time when some of the younger players would make a big pot of cocoa in the practice room and Siragusa saw an opportunity to fill it with laxative before practice. Siragusa laughed as the players rushed off the field.
“They say there’s a person like you everywhere, but I believe God made a Goose with that personality,” former Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster said.
In the first “Hard Knocks”, Siragusa delivered one of the best moments when he barricaded the tight ends in their meeting room with a table. Sharpe said he wanted “restitution” and stole Siragusa’s truck in order to get an apology.
Siragusa’s commitment to his team was evident in 2000, when he was pinned down, fell to the ground and couldn’t feel part of his body. His mother ran down from the bleachers and his older brothers ran to the locker room where a golf cart had moved the motionless tall man.
“Head down, I couldn’t move,” Siragusa later recalled. “It’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”
Medical staff told Siragusa he needed to at least get an MRI to make sure there was no damage to his spine. He had a bruised spine and was advised not to go back. But he ignored this advice.
Syraguse said:[Defensive line] Coach Rex Ryan came up to me and said, “You have a family. Don’t go back there. I said, ‘You are my family too. I have to do that. “
Ryan, now an ESPN analyst, said Wednesday that “Tony was one of the best people I’ve ever met” and “it’s impossible to have a bad day with him.”
After his retirement, Siragusa served as a secondary analyst for Fox Sports from 2003 to 2015. He also had a few acting roles, appearing in “The Sopranos” and Spike Lee’s film, “25th Hour.”
“It’s a really sad day,” Siragusa broadcast agent Jim Ornstein told The Associated Press. “Tony was so much more than my client, he was part of the 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 extremely sad day for the Baltimore Ravens,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said. “We appreciate everyone who has expressed their support for our players, coaches and staff.”