Tony Siragusa, the NFL defensive tackle who went on to become 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 “Goose,” Siragusa served as a key cog at the center of the Baltimore Ravens’ historic defense in 2000, which led to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title that same season. He began his 12-year career by squandering his $1,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent and exiting the game as one of his unique personalities, known for his irreverent sense of humor and unforgettable pranks.
“There was nobody like Goose — a warrior on the field and a team facilitator with a generous, generous heart who has helped teammates and the community more than most people know,” said former Ravens coach Brian Billick. “We wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such overwhelming 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. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that he “had been heartbroken, as is the case with Colt’s Nation”. Irsay added in a follow-up tweet that “The Goose squeezed 200 fun-loving years into 55!!”
The Goose turned 200 fun-loving years into 55!! He was one of the most physically fit players I’ve seen in 50 years. Did he have passion? In Tony’s case..Yes he did!!💪🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) June 22, 2022
Known as the worker run stuffer, Siragusa reveled in his greatest moment coming with a quarterback hit. In the 2000 AFC Championship game, Siragusa defeated Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, driving the All-Pro into the turf and severing his left shoulder. The Ravens beat the Raiders 16-3 and advanced to the Super Bowl.
“I saw Rich’s eyes roll back,” Siragusa said at the time. “He took every pound of my fat ass on himself.”
As much as Siragusa enjoyed the limelight off the field, he was comfortable doing the dirty work for one of the NFL’s best defenses, even if it resulted in countless knee surgeries and no Pro Bowl invites. Siragusa, a 6-foot-3, 340-pound wall at center, manned doubles teams to allow middle linebacker Ray Lewis to move freely and helped Baltimore set league records for fewest points (165) and rushing yards (970) in to field a 16-game season.
“That’s a difficult question,” said Lewis. “I love Goose like 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 a man like that.”
Kicker Matt Stover said, “I truly believe that without Tony, the Super Bowl XXXV team would never have been as good as it was. Not only did he clog up the middle, but his presence in the dressing room created an easy environment when things got tight. He will be missed but not forgotten.”
Teammates will remember Siragusa for his infamous pranks.
There was a time when some of the younger players were making a big pot of cocoa in the training room and Siragusa saw an opportunity to spike it with laxatives before training. Siragusa laughed as the players stormed off the field.
“They say there’s a person like you everywhere, but I think God made a goose of that personality,” said Larry Webster, former Ravens defensive tackle.
In the first “Hard Knocks,” Siragusa delivered one of the top moments when he barricaded the tight ends in their briefing room with a table. Sharpe famously declared he wanted “redemption” and stole Siragusa’s truck to get an apology.
Siragusa’s commitment to his team was shown in 2000 when he became blocked and fell to the ground, unable to feel any part of his body. His mother ran down from the stands and his older brothers sprinted into the locker room, where a golf cart had moved the motionless tall man.
“I couldn’t move from the head down,” Siragusa later recalled. “It was the scariest thing that happened to me in my life.”
Medical staff told Siragusa he needed at least an MRI to make sure there was no spinal damage. He had an injured spine and was advised not to go back. But he didn’t heed that advice.
Said Siragusa: “[Defensive line] Coach Rex Ryan came up to me and said, ‘You have a family. Don’t go out there again.’ I said, ‘You are my family too. I have to do this.”
Ryan, now an ESPN analyst, said Wednesday that “Tony was one of the best people I’ve ever met” and that “it was impossible to have a bad day around him.”
After retiring, Siragusa was a part-time analyst at Fox Sports from 2003 to 2015. He has also had some acting roles, appearing in The Sopranos and Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour.
“This is a really sad day,” Siragusa broadcasting agent Jim Ornstein told The Associated Press. “Tony was much more than just 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 earlier in the day announced the death of outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. 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 given so much support to our players, coaches and staff.”