Ndamukong Suh has a job. On fall Sunday afternoons he wreaks havoc on offensive linemen and terrorizes quarterbacks. This is something the 6-4, 307 pound defensive tackle, who was the number two overall draft pick in 2010 by the Detroit Lions, excels at. He is big, nasty and mean.
He is also the dirtiest player in the NFL. Suh doesn’t simply play hard and intimidate opposing players. He tries to punish them. Even after repeated fines and suspensions as well as a one-on-one meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell, Suh remains undeterred and unrepentant in his roughhouse style of play.
The 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, Suh has also the physical and mental gifts to be a dominant force in the league, but his wrecking ball approach has gotten him in trouble from the beginning.
As a rookie, Suh was fined twice for hard hits on quarterbacks Jake Delhomme ($7,500) and Jay Cutler ($15,000). He was fined again for using an opponent for leverage on a field goal ($5,000). In 2011, Sue was $20,000 lighter in the wallet for a vicious preseason hit on Andy Dalton. Last year, Suh was fined $30,000 for kicking Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving.
Suh must not like playing on holidays because it was on Thanksgiving in 2011 when he was suspended two games for stomping on the arm of Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Last season , he tried to top that with his kick to Matt Schaub’s man zone.
That ugly incident and Suh’s total denial that he had done anything wrong is when “dirty player” and “Ndamukong Suh” became synonymous.
Suh didn’t wait long to get back into the rotation of hot topics on sportstalk radio. On opening week against the Minnesota Vikings, Suh’s teammate De’Andre Levy intercepted a pass and rumbled toward the end zone. Trailing behind in pursuit was Vikings center, John Sullivan. On a change of possession such as an interception or fumble recovery NFL rules state a player can’t be blocked below the knee. It’s a nasty and illegal hit that can blow out a man’s knees and end his career. Suh, a defensive team captain, should know this rule.
If he did it didn’t matter. Suh came up from behind Sullivan, dived at his knee and took Sullivan down in a heap as he crumpled in agony. Levy went on to score only to have the TD wiped out due to the clipping penalty Suh picked up. Fortunately for Sullivan, he wasn’t badly hurt.
Chalk it up to dumb luck because Suh’s dumb play could have had far worse consequences than six points coming off the scoreboard.
Sullivan told an interviewer, “I don’t think he was trying to hurt me,” Sullivan said. “But there need to be consequences when guys don’t respect the careers of other players.”
Suh doesn’t respect the careers of other players. He lumbers around stadiums crashing into people and acts the innocent when asked why he seemingly doesn’t care if he hurts someone. For two consecutive years he’s been named the NFL’s dirtiest player and if wants to make it three years he’s well on his way.
Suh has lost more than $342,000 in fines and missed game checks due to player-safety violations. He can afford it. He’s made more than $51.7 million in his career from the Lions so far.
“It’s unfortunate that that had to happen and it kind of overshadowed his performance, but we stick with him. He’s a guy that’s an integral part of our team and a great player on defense and hopefully we can put this behind us and just move on.” said a happy Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford who is relieved he is on the same team as Suh and can’t be hit by him. Presumably.
Suh remains unapologetic and shrugged off the fine (which he is appealing) and the cheap shot on Sullivan. “Really you just play football, that’s all I can do,” Suh told reporters. “… I don’t change, I’m going to always play tough, hard, that’s the way I was brought up at Nebraska, where I really learned football from the Pelinis and that staff and continue to play hard, play blue-collar football.”
“I think it’s just, player safety is the league’s concern,” Suh said. “You’ve got to only respect it, and that’s one of the reasons I spoke to Sullivan as we walked into the halftime, and he understood where I was coming from. No hard feelings and same thing if he cut me so forth, so on, no hard feelings and go from there.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz has been an apologist and enabler for Sue’s dirty play since he came into the league. After the win over the Vikings at the post-game press conference Schwartz made it clear he had no regrets for Suh’s bonehead play which negated a touchdown.
“I’m not (going to) apologize for any win. We won this football game. There (were) a lot of positives in this game. We were resilient, we played hard, we played physical, and we went out and beat a playoff team at home in the opener, and I’m not (going to) apologize for anything this team did.”
Schwartz is one of the most mediocre coaches in the NFL. He’s been with the team since 2009 and compiled a record of 23 wins to 42 losses, with one division championship. The Lions have never made it to a Super Bowl and they never will with Schwartz coaching the team.
Here’s the problem for the Lions: They have a bad coach leading a mediocre team starring the league’s dirtiest player in a bankrupt city. If it wasn’t for Calvin Johnson, the Lions would be right down there with the Jacksonville Jaguars for lack of watchability.
Suh isn’t going to change how he plays over a record-setting $100 thousand fine. He says he’s not going to change. Schwartz—who is no Bill Parcells or Bill Cowher type of take-no-shit coach—doesn’t have the balls to tell Suh, “Your dumb plays are killing us, so knock ‘it off before I bench your ass!”
What does $100K fine mean to somebody with a $51 million contract? That’s nothing but a speeding ticket to Suh. You pay the fine and go right back to speeding.
In 2011, Suh asked for and received a meeting with Goodell to find out exactly how aggressive his style of play could go before going too far. He emerged from the conversation promising to continue to play his way, but within the rules.
“The way I play, the way I have played in the past, is to continue to play within the rules and just have an understanding of what they look for,” Suh said. “I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to repeat mistakes. That was the main thing that, more or less, (Goodell) was emphasizing. I haven’t made the same mistakes I made in the past.”
That’s half-true. The mistakes continue to happen but they are happening to different players.
Despite efforts to regulate, control and reduce the violence of pro football there is an unspoken code of conduct among the players and cheap shot artists who seem to be deliberately trying to hurt others make themselves a target for retaliation. It only takes one offensive lineman to blindside, leg-whip, crackback block, or set Sue up for a high-low hit that seriously injures him or ends his career.
ESPN football analyst Herm Edwards, a former coach and player himself issued a caution to Suh and Schwartz.
“You as a coach, you have to make this young man understand, ‘If you want to continue to have a long career in this league, look, there’s only so much I can do,'” Edwards said. “They can fine you. They can take games away from you. But when the players that play against you, they watch you on tape, you’re setting yourself up.”
“Right now, the way you’re going, these players know how to fix it.”
Actions have consequences. If Ndamukong Suh doesn’t find a way to harness the fury he plays with and channel it into a less malicious approach to playing defense, someone is going to fix him in a way that could leave him broken beyond repair.
- Benjamin Watson on Ndamukong Suh: “Enough is enough” (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Inside Slant: Players must police Suh (espn.go.com)
- Ndamukong Suh receives $100,000 fine (thesilverdomeblues.com)