Monday, January 30, 2012
Face to Face: Ndamukong Suh
By Kevin Seifert
This month, we discussed what appeared to be the start of a public-relations tour designed to rehabilitate the image of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. In the first 10 days after the Lions' season ended, Suh appeared as a guest on CBS' "The NFL Today" pregame show and also on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
Next up, or so it would seem, is "Face to Face" -- an ESPN special that will air Tuesday night. (We posted an excerpt Friday of a segment on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.)
As part of the show, Suh spoke extensively with host/executive producer Hannah Storm on the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, Neb. From the outside, at least, "Face to Face" would seem another stop on the Suh PR Tour of 2012. So last week, I spoke with Storm to gauge the extent of the spin, or lack thereof, she detected during several hours she spent interviewing Suh.
I figured Storm was in pretty good position to make that determination after spending the past 28 years as a journalist. Here's what she said: "You don't get the feeling he's doing this as damage control at all. This is a guy who is who he is, and that's what he's sharing.
"It seems like he feels he has been portrayed as the villain by the NFL," Storm said. "He gets the storyline. … So [in "Face to Face"], I think what he really appreciated was the ability to tell his story from his perspective, how he feels and how he sees it."
During the interview, Suh acknowledged he should have handled himself better before, during and after his infamous Thanksgiving Day stomp of Green Bay Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. But said it is "outrageous" to be called a dirty player, and according to Storm, Suh complained to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about an NFL Network piece that billed the Lions' game against the Denver Broncos as "Good vs. Evil."
And what figures to be one of the takeaway moments of the piece, Suh scoffed at suggestions that he needs help with anger management.
"It's funny to me," Suh said in the video excerpt below. "I don't have issues of beating up people in bars. I know it's not right. It doesn't make sense to me. But I think people try to make their own opinion and I think it's a storyline. It's a great storyline. I understood this year that a lot of people see me being a dirty player is a fun storyline to have. That's what it is to me. It's kind of comical to me to keep saying something and really have no substance behind it."
I'll say this much: If Suh was single-minded in his desire to rehabilitate his image, I think his answer would have been a little more conciliatory. So I plan to watch the full interview when it airs Tuesday night. (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET.) I want to see Suh being "who he is," as Storm termed it. I'll take honesty, whether or not I agree with it, over spin any day.