There will be no suspension for Detroit's Ndamukong Suh this year. He got one last year for a stomp of Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving. He avoided it this year for a foot to the groin of Houston's Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving.
"Our office has notified the Lions that Ndamukong Suh will not be suspended for last Thursday's incident," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement. "It will be reviewed for a potential fine."
It was a fair decision. There wasn't concrete evidence from the video that Suh deliberately kicked Schaub where it really hurts. It looked suspicious, but you could just as easily make the case that it was inadvertent, although the NFL hasn't gone that far. If the defensive tackle is fined, then the league thinks something happened.
Either way, if you were to tell NFL players, coaches and fans that someone might kick someone else in the groin this upcoming weekend and ask them for the most likely perpetrator, Suh would win in a landslide. That's his now well-earned rep.
We can only imagine what will happen – on purpose or accident – next Thanksgiving.
This is the tricky spot the third-year lineman out of Nebraska has found himself in and one that has to be wearing the Lions down.
Detroit has a ton invested in Suh, from a high draft pick, to millions of dollars paid and owed, to a defense built from the center of the line out. These recurring incidents and inevitable suspensions don't help though.
He was thrown out of that Packers game last year and then suspended for two more, right as the Lions were driving toward the playoffs. He even went to New York for a highly publicized face-to-face sit-down with commissioner Roger Goodell.
All of the drama was one thing when Suh was bringing a necessary dose of we-don't-care toughness to a long downtrodden franchise on the way up. It's another when his stats remain stagnant and the team is 4-7.
Suh has 4.5 sacks and 20 tackles on the season, numbers that should wind up ahead of last year's 4.0 sacks and 36 tackles. It won't come close to the breakout rookie campaign though, when the No. 2 pick overall in the 2010 draft went for 66 tackles and 10 sacks. At that point Detroit thought it had the next Warren Sapp on its hands. Now, no one can be certain what's next.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz remains publicly supportive of Suh, citing his disruptive presence along the line that conventional stats don't record. There are plays where that's obvious. The guy is a presence that must be accounted for. The fact guys such as Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley produce strong games is a testament to the double-teams Suh commands.
No one is suggesting he isn't valuable. No one is saying he isn't part of the Lions' future.
Still, at some point there has to be more from Suh. More game-breaking plays. More leadership – he remains a loner in the Lions' locker room. Just more maturity, perhaps shown via more stretches of play where he isn't accused of dirty plays that risk suspension.
If you are one of the leaders on a team that regressed from playoffs to four wins heading into December, then there has to be more of a lot of things.
“Something’s gotta happen,” Texans offensive lineman Duane Brown told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s a lot going on over and over again. We’re not allowed to do anything about it as players. No flag’s being thrown. Something has to happen eventually for him to learn that’s not going to be acceptable.”
Suh has spent a tremendous amount of time building up a marketable image, a plan hatched back at Nebraska to cash in despite having an unusual name and playing a mostly anonymous position. It's worked to the tune of endorsement deals with Subway, Chrysler, Dick's Sporting Goods, Omaha Steaks and Nike.
At some point though, the truth reveals itself and this isn't just a guy who plays with an edge. His peers have voted him the league's dirtiest player and its least liked. Others have expressed disgust at his attitude. Schaub went so far as say he wouldn't want him as a teammate – and it's worth noting quarterbacks don't usually taunt 310-pound defensive linemen.
"You don't want a player like that," Schaub told Houston sports radio 610-AM. "The stuff that he stands for and the type of player he is, that's not Houston Texan-worthy. That's not what we're about as a football team, as individuals, collectively as a group, we're not that type of person."
Here's guessing the Texans would take him and Schaub wouldn't be so indignant if he was a teammate. Suh has that much upside.
Of course, it's long past time we're talking about what he can do on the field, and not whether he dodged another of Roger Goodell's suspensions.
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