Lions have more issues than Sitton's words


When Ndamukong Suh has been asked in the past about his fines and his play, he’ll sometimes respond by saying some equivalent of that’s your opinion.

Well, Green Bay guard Josh Sitton -- someone who Suh has said in the past he has enjoyed facing -- offered his on Tuesday and predictably it was about as pleasant as a harsh Michigan winter.

Sitton called the Lions defense “dirtbags” and “scumbags” and Detroit’s head coach, Jim Schwartz, a slang word for male genitalia. So, you know, clearly Sitton’s got an opinion.

It just happens to be a strong one. And that’s fine and it is something the Lions have heard before -- well, at least about their defense. Not sure if anyone has ever called Schwartz a “d---” publicly before.

But the Lions, having lost two games in a row, have bigger issues than Sitton’s words right now.

A lot of what Sitton said about the Lions defense -- not Schwartz -- is similar to what other players and coaches have said over the years. There’s a reason Suh has been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL and why the Lions are often looked at when fines come down from the league for late hits and roughing the passer calls.

Some of that, in the past, has had to do with immaturity. Most of the Detroit defensive line -- and let’s be real here, most of this has to do with Suh, Nick Fairley and Willie Young as Ziggy Ansah, Devin Taylor, C.J. Mosley and Israel Idonije have been around less than a year -- have been young players still learning in the league.

Except the problem that it is only so believable when you look at facts. Among penalties that are usually plays that might be fined, no Lions player is in the top 10 according to ESPN Stats & Information. Both Fairley and Suh each have three such penalties (generally, horse collar tackles, low hits, roughing the passer, late hits, etc...), but they don’t lead the league.

As a team, among the 20 penalties I flagged in the ESPN Stats & Information database as ones that could draw fines, the Lions are second, defensively, with 15 behind Tampa Bay with 21.

But the flags don’t necessarily correspond with the feelings of the reality of what is being called against the Lions. Penalties don’t mean everything. Suh was fined for a play that went unflagged against Cleveland this season and refs surely miss some things.

But this, again, is a case of reputation and semi-reality converging into a nice, neat package for a player to rip. Suh, Fairley and friends play aggressively. And it is something they are coached to do, something Young confirmed as much to me earlier this season.

So the chances of these opinions ever changing is minimal. It’s just something Detroit needs to deal with and brush off. The Lions season is teetering right now, so they should have bigger things to fix than what an opposing lineman is calling them.