As the saying goes, those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.
With that in mind, it wasn’t surprising to see Detroit Lions’ star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sidelined for this weekend’s playoff game after a seemingly inadvertent stomp late on the injured ankle of Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The complete and total uproar over Suh, who had his back turned on the play, is ridiculous, as is the contention that he clearly intended to hurt Rodgers. When viewed from this standpoint, the suspension makes little sense.
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What does make sense, however, is the NFL’s reaction based on Suh’s history. Considering he’s had his share of dustups in the past, he has lost the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of all decision makers. Clearly, Suh has nobody but himself to blame.
Suh, the anchor of the Lions’ top-rated defense, has helped stake Detroit to a top rating in the rushing defense category. Now, as the team prepares to take on the physical Dallas Cowboys, Detroit will start the game from behind the eight ball without their impact player.
For Lions’ fans, it might be a preview of more to come in 2015. Suh, a free agent at year’s end, could choose to fly the coop. Detroit might not be able to stand in the way after facing constant scrutiny about dirty play from their players. Intentional or not, it sure seems funny that Suh always seems to find himself at the center of another controversy on the field.
From a focus standpoint, the Lions will soon have to ask themselves an obvious question: is keeping Suh around long-term worth the risk? Clearly, his presence alone benefits the entire defense, but a loose cannon mentality on the field also does more damage than good from a public relations standpoint.
Regardless of any intent to do so, Suh has helped brand himself as dirty and the Lions as a team that tolerates such tactics. Even under a new coaching staff, it’s allowed the myth to pervade that Detroit is a rogue team that doesn’t care about safety, and is blind to the risks of competitors going outside the lines.
Suh himself might not be a dirty player and the Lions might not condone dirty play, but the marriage of the two parties is beginning to prevent anyone on the outside from seeing that clearly. Nearly every year he’s been in Detroit, he’s had dustups. From that standpoint, wrapping such a player up on a long-term, big dollar deal is a significant risk to the franchise.
Suh himself might not be a dirty player and the Lions might not condone dirty play, but the marriage of the two parties is beginning to prevent anyone on the outside from seeing that clearly.
“I’m not going to tell you about our conversations, it’s a private conversation and we’ll leave it at that,” Jim Caldwell said Monday when forced to try and explain what he discussed with Suh after the fact. “Personal views don’t matter in this particular case, I think that the league will take a look at it, obviously, it’s one of those situations that they’ll have to rule on.”
Hours later, they did swiftly. Caldwell’s tone itself seemed to suggest exhaustion of dealing with such antics, and worrying about concerns. As a veteran, Suh is supposed to lead by example, and that means always knowing where to step, what not to do and being extra careful. Given his past, questioning his ability to be that balanced isn’t unreasonable.
In a few months, if the Lions decide to move on from Suh, it might not be completely tied to the issue of money. They might simply be tired of answering all the questions and dealing with all the drama.
It’s a decision that will have to be made.