Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Suspension better catch Suh's attention
By Kevin Seifert
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has fined Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at least three times in two seasons for plays he considered beyond the scope of the game. Those fines, totaling at least $42,500, had little impact on Suh's approach and failed as a deterrent from the actions that led to his ejection from Thursday's game against the Green Bay Packers.
So Goodell has taken the next logical step in a progression of discipline that, for Suh's sake, must stop here. Tuesday's two-game suspension must catch Suh's attention, because neither Suh nor the Lions want to contemplate what could come next.
Barring a successful appeal, Suh will lose about $164,000. But I doubt that total will mean much to a player whose rookie contract included $40 million guaranteed. What should impact Suh is the implied threat of all suspensions. The NFL can give him a lucrative career beyond his wildest imagination, and it can also take it away.
NFL history is packed with players who, like Suh, plowed through the line between aggressive and dirty. Most of them, however, played in an era long since past. The NFL's place atop America's mainstream entertainment structure requires a more disciplined environment.
In a statement released Tuesday, the league said Suh has now violated its on-field rules five times since joining the Lions in 2010. (We know of three fines and this suspension, so one episode remains unreported.) Speaking over the weekend on NBC, longtime NFL safety Rodney Harrison said he didn't begin to curb his style until he started missing games as a result.
"I was a young player once and I was very prideful and arrogant, just like Ndamukong Suh," Harrison said. "But I didn't learn until the commissioner handed me a suspension. Then I really understood the impact of what it did to my teammates in that locker room."
Under the terms of the suspension, Suh will miss the Lions' game Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints and the Dec. 11 game against the Minnesota Vikings. As we've discussed, I'm not sure if the Lions would beat the Saints even with Suh and they should defeat the Vikings without him. When he rejoins the team Dec. 12, hopefully Suh will have realized that the game can go on without him if he can't conform to its standards.
There should be no doubting how serious Goodell has taken Suh's career path, culminating with the pounding of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith's head into the ground three times followed by stomping on his arm. On only one other occasion has Goodell suspended a player longer than one game for actions that occurred on the field; that was Albert Haynesworth's stomp on the throat of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode in 2006.
Suh's past history played a factor, but it's clear Goodell wanted to send as strong of a message as he could while remaining within the confines of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
If this discipline doesn't get Suh's attention, I'm not sure what will.
Earlier: Suh reached out Sunday night to Goodell. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy blames the Lions and coach Jim Schwartz as much as Suh for this episode. Thursday's events were the end of Suh's innocence. You have to wonder if Suh's far-reaching corporate sponsorships will take a hit. We'll soon know if his apology was genuine or mere spin.