Reasonable people could debate whether it's possible for a person to pull a 180-degree change of heart in a matter of hours, as Ndamukong Suh would have us believe he did Friday night. If you wanted, you could note that the statement he released -- in which he admitted his actions Thursday were "unacceptable" and "a mistake" -- closely mirrored and was released almost in conjunction with a statement from his employer.
Did the Detroit Lions mandate the statement he released as a condition of his continued good standing with the organization? We'll never know, and more importantly, it doesn't matter. We'll see soon enough whether this flurry of statements was genuine or half-hearted spin.
If Suh truly understands he finally obliterated the line between aggressive and dirty, we'll never see him approach it again. We won't see helmets flying in his vicinity. We won't hear any more of his increasingly indefensible rhetoric about intimidating quarterbacks or refusing to consider a change in his approach to the game. We'll see a dramatic slowdown in his count of personal fouls, and we'll be done getting tortured explanations for sketchy plays. (My personal favorite will always be the Shaq Suh defense. Our August post on that issue is here.)
You might say a player can't make that kind of change overnight, but that's basically what Suh has set himself up to do if we are to believe a statement that read, in part: "I made a mistake, and have learned from it." Once you pound an opponent's head into the ground three times and then stomp on his arm, you lose both the opportunity for gradual improvement and the right to hover near the line. With a multigame suspension looming from this incident, Suh's long-term career is riding on his ability to back away from the line and never cross it again. He can't afford to leave a doubt -- ever again.
And for that matter, it will be fair to hold the Lions accountable for their statement as well. The team said his actions were "unacceptable" and that "going forward," he will be expected to reflect the "high standard of professionalism" expected from all Lions players.
If the Lions are serious about that, they must be willing to take substantive action against Suh if he can't contain himself in the future. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement limits team-issued discipline, but it doesn't prevent it. If they want to, the Lions could suspend Suh for up to four games based on contact detrimental to the team. They also have the final say over his continued employment with the franchise.
Intentionally or otherwise, the Lions and Ndamukong Suh put themselves on the clock Friday night. We'll see whether they can handle the implications that lie within.