NFL Nation: Falcons-Lions 2011

Roddy White responds to Ndamukong Suh

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
8:40
PM ET
Time for Round 3 of the battle of words between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions.

For those keeping score at home, Round 1 came when Atlanta receiver Roddy White and center Todd McClure expressed disgust and claimed Detroit defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril were making comments and gestures as Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was on the field after having his ankle stepped on by offensive tackle Will Svitek.

Round 2 came when Suh and Avril denied making comments or gestures and also took a few shots at Atlanta’s offensive line and the media.

Now, onto the latest. In an interview with NFL Network, White responded to Suh’s comments.

“I just know he's going to say whatever he wants to say, but we know what they said,’’ White said. “We were standing right there in the huddle, we saw when he went down and that's before the medical staff got there that they said was in front of the play. We didn't say he kicked Matt; we said one of the guys, I don't know if it was 92 or 93, one of the defensive ends, came over and he was making kicking gestures like, 'Get him out of here, get him out of here.'

“I know Suh said what he said. He said, 'Go get the cart for him, get him out of here.' He knows he said that and we're not going to go back and forth about what he said-she said. And then he's going to say it was karma for what we've done in the past when their quarterback (Matthew Stafford) gets hurt on the last play of the game and they have an MRI today.”

You can check out video of the White interview here, along with interviews with Suh and teammate Stephen Tulloch.

Earlier Monday, we noted that two Atlanta Falcons players made some serious and specific allegations of taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct by the Detroit Lions, taking place when quarterback Matt Ryan suffered a left ankle injury in Sunday's game at Ford Field. So it's only fair to allow the Lions to respond.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh and Cliff Avril.
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiNdamukong Suh, left, and Cliff Avril, accused by Atlanta players of unsportsmanlike conduct, responded Monday. Avril called it "mind-boggling" that the Lions were cast as a dirty team in comparison.
Let's just say that defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril have strongly rejected the accusations of Falcons receiver Roddy White and center Todd McClure. White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Avril was "kicking at [Ryan's] feet" while we writhed on the ground in pain. McClure said Suh was taunting Ryan and calling for the Falcons to "get the cart."

Speaking to reporters Monday, Suh denied "trash talking" Ryan and noted the injury occurred when Falcons left tackle Will Svitek stepped on Ryan's ankle. Suh called the play "karma" for "all the bad stuff" the Falcons' offensive line has "done in the past."

Said Suh: "There are many, many, many plays that I could go back to that I watch on film all week that their offensive line has done," Suh said, "and that they've been coached to do, as far as I know. It's not anything that's not been said; it's not anything that's new."

Asked specifically if he said anything to Ryan after the injury, Suh said:

"I have nothing to say. The man's sitting on the ground. We've obviously continued to do our job, getting to him, causing havoc, his own quarterback takes him out. … I have no comment, no issues, no nothing -- nothing to say to him. At that time, when he's on the ground, there's nothing that I have to say to him. We've done our job, we've been in his face, we've caused him to go down, we've caused his offensive lineman to hurt him."

(Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com is blogging the entire interview.)

Meanwhile, Suh wondered why none of the Falcons' offensive linemen retaliated if Avril had truly kicked at Ryan. If the Falcons had kicked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Suh said, "all hell would have broken loose." In an interview with the Lions' web site, Avril backed Suh's assessment of the Falcons' offensive line. He said it is "mind-boggling" that the Lions were cast as a dirty team in comparison.

"You watch film of Atlanta's O-line and they're 20, 30 yards down the field cutting guys," Avril said. "You're running toward the pile and they're trying to clean you up. Everybody was protecting themselves. I guess since they couldn't clean us up in piles because guys were aware of it, they decide to make it like we're the dirty players."

Normally, a he-said, she-said gives us some comic relief during the monotony of an NFL season. But these allegations have come at a serious time in the career of Suh, and to a lesser extent, Avril.

A dirty reputation shouldn't change how anyone plays or limit his effectiveness. In some cases, in fact, it could help create a psychological advantage over opponents. But it's still a damaging stigma to carry because it implies your success has come outside of the rules, or at least the ethics of fair play. Few, if any, competitors want a stigmatic asterisk next to their achievements.

I imagine that's why Suh and Avril were so vehement Monday. There is a school of thought that suggests a response only gives further life to a one-sided story. But in this case, going silent would have been a tacit admission of guilt and provided another episode with which to tack the dirty tag on Suh.

As we discussed earlier, there is no evidence on the television copy that Avril got anywhere near Ryan nor of anyone reacting to something Suh might have said. I'm not sure if the Lions needed to publicize their thoughts on the Falcons' play. It sounded a little bit like, I'm dirty? No, you're dirty! But overall, it was important for Suh and Avril to stand up themselves. Good for them.

Lions fire back at Falcons

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
5:21
PM ET
It’s time for another round of “Falcons said, Lions said’’.

In the first round, we told you how Atlanta receiver Roddy White and center Todd McClure expressed disgust at what they said were the actions of Detroit defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril when quarterback Matt Ryan was down with an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Andrew Weber/US PresswireDetroit's Ndamukong Suh refutes accusations by Falcons players that a Lions player was kicking Atlanta QB Matt Ryan while Ryan was on the turf injured Sunday.
Now, it’s time for Round II.

This is where Suh and Avril come back and deny they did what McClure and White said they did.

"Basically, my whole thing is, with all the statements, they're going to say what they want to say -- he said, she said,’’ Suh said. “I know, for the fact of the matter, Cliff, or anybody for that matter, would have kicked their quarterback, I'm sure there would have been a riot -- there would've been a fight broken out real quick. Because I guarantee you if that would've happened to Matt Stafford, and he was on the ground and somebody kicked him, I guarantee you all hell would've broken loose.

"I just got done watching film, got done watching that play. If you see it, me and Cliff are standing next to each other because there's a back -- there are three people on the two of us. So, with that, (the accusations are) null and void; that kills it right there. So there's no point in even -- these accusations, all these different things -- it means nothing to me.’’

Avril had a similar response.

"It isn't in anybody’s character in our D-line room, honestly and truthfully, to go out and try and end guys’ careers," said Avril. "Nobody in our D-line …that’s not football to us. We play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, I believe, which is to get after the quarterback and hit the quarterback and stop the run. That’s what it is.’’

Of course, there now is room for a few more rounds in this one because Suh and Avril pointed some fingers at various targets, starting with Atlanta’s offensive line.

"Nobody’s out there trying to tear ACLs, nobody’s out there trying to do all the season-ending injuries,’’ Avril said. “But then you have O-linemen that are taught that and they get away with it and all of a sudden we get the stigma of the name of being 'a dirty group' which is mind-boggling, honestly."

Suh also had some words about Atlanta’s offensive line.

"There are many, many, many plays that I could go back to that I watch on film all week that their offensive line has done, and that they've been coached to do, as far as I know,’’ Suh said. “It's not anything that's not been said; it's not anything that's new. Those are thing that they're taught to do, and I can go back -- there's like a 13-, 15-play reel that we have that shows everything they've done. That's not even counting our game -- there are many plays that I can go back to in that particular game and say, “What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to just let that happen? Or what?” But nothing's done about it.

And, of course, the media outlets that initially reported the claims by McClure and White are drawing fire from the Lions.

"For me, it really sits unsettling that there's media outlets, there's reporters that really don't do their homework, and it's kind of unsettling because that's your job,’’ Suh said. “Ultimately, if you go back and watch the film and look at things, come to me and point it out where I've made mistakes and where I've cut somebody, late-hit somebody in the back, or anything like that. Let me know. I want to see it. I want somebody to come out and point it to me and let me know where I did it and how I did, and if I was wrong, we can address it then and there.’’

I’ve got news for Suh. It was White and McClure who made the allegations, not the media.

Did Shaq Suh strike again?

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
11:14
AM ET
So here is what we know:

With 10 minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter Sunday at Ford Field, Detroit Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson drove Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Will Svitek back into the pocket. Svitek stepped on quarterback Matt Ryan's left ankle, leaving Ryan writhing on the field in pain.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Tim Fuller/US PresswireFalcons quarterback Matt Ryan is helped by medical staff after being sacked during the third quarter Sunday against Detroit.
What happened after that is a matter of hearsay. Multiple Falcons players told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Lions players were taunting and otherwise acting disrespectfully toward Ryan while the Falcons medical staff attended to him. I watched the TV replay and neither saw nor heard any evidence of that, but obviously much of what happens on an NFL field goes unheard by the public.

Receiver Roddy White said that Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cliff Avril behaved in a way that caused him to lose "a whole lot of respect" for them. White said Avril "was kicking at [Ryan's] feet and said, 'Get him off the field.'"

Falcons center Todd McClure said: "I had respect for Suh before the game. But when Matt was on the ground, the things [Suh] was saying and the trash he was talking was definitely uncalled for. There are certain things you don't do. [He said], 'Get the cart' and several other things that I can't repeat."

Via Twitter, Avril said: "Come on, I'm not in the business of hurting not one guy on the field... I would never taunt anyone on an injury."

Suh has yet to respond, as far as I'm aware.

Are White and McClure accurately depicting what Suh and/or Avril said and did? Are they exaggerating? Short of an NFL Films audio emerging, we might never know for sure. But this episode will only add fuel to the debate about the way Suh plays the game, and if he and his teammates are too often pushing the edge of aggressiveness and moving into the realm of being chippy or dirty.

Suh likened himself to Shaquille O'Neal this summer, suggesting he gets penalized based on his superior strength relative to opponents. Whether he likes it or not, he's also being judged by players and officials based on his reputation. There's nothing he can or should do about his strength, but if he acted the way the Falcons say he did after Ryan's injury, he's going to lose whatever benefit of the doubt he still maintained with officials and the league office.

One of the most notorious players in recent NFL history was safety Rodney Harrison, who is now an NBC analyst. Sunday night, Harrison said: "I don't think [Suh] is a dirty player, but I've talked to guys around the league, and they say he is a dirty player. The bad thing about that is it takes away from how good of a player you are. You don't want that reputation. He's too good of a player, and plus it hurts your team."

In the video below, ESPN analyst Antoino Pierce said: "If those things were said, that's wrong." But he also added that the Falcons' offensive line should take some ownership of the situation as well: "You have a job to do as an offensive lineman. If you don't want them to be dirty or hit your quarterback, keep him away."

Atlanta Falcons lose respect for Suh

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
8:40
AM ET

Atlanta receiver Roddy White and center Todd McClure expressed disgust at the actions of Detroit defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril after quarterback Matt Ryan was injured in the second half of Sunday’s Falcons’ victory.

Suh
Suh
Offensive tackle Will Svitek appeared to step on Ryan’s ankle. The quarterback went down briefly, but walked off the field. Ryan returned to the game.

"I had respect for Suh before the game," McClure told The Journal-Constitution. "But when Matt was on the ground, the things [Suh] was saying and the trash he was talking was definitely uncalled for. There are certain things you don't do. [He said], 'Get the cart' and several other things that I can't repeat."

"I lost a whole lot of respect for 90 [Suh] today, and also 92 [Avril], the [expletive] they were doing when Matt got hurt," White told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That was unacceptable. ... Like 92 was kicking [Ryan's] feet, saying, 'Get him off the field.' We don't do stuff like that. ... When you compete, you never want to see a guy get hurt."

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