Commentary

A complete turnaround on Suh

An admirer of his play in the past says the Lion's behavior lately has been cowardly

Originally Published: November 29, 2011
By Ross Tucker | ESPN.com

Ndamukong Suh used to be my favorite player in the NFL. Heck, I even wrote that as recently as August. Not anymore. Not by a long shot. Now I think a lot of his behavior is cowardly.

You might think that I changed my mind simply because he stomped on the arm of Green Bay Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving. You couldn't be more wrong.

That certainly wasn't good, to say the least, but the act itself wasn't what bothered me most. It was how he handled himself after the game that really struck a nerve.

Things happen in the heat of the battle on an NFL field. I've been punched, stepped on, kicked, put in an arm bar as a defensive lineman told me he was going to break it and spit on directly in my face -- twice. I've also probably done some things that I wish I hadn't in hindsight, though I always thought that my transgressions were within the rules of the game. At least that's what I always told myself.

Although I don't condone Suh's smashing of Dietrich-Smith's head into the ground and subsequent stomp, the truth is, I could see myself doing something like that if I were really angry or thought I had been wronged in some way. That doesn't make it OK, but it's the truth. It's how you handle a situation like that afterward that really matters.

I would have been a man and owned up to my misdeed. It's as simple as admitting that you lost your cool and apologizing to everyone involved. Easy, right?

Evidently not. Suh only compounded things by offering a lame and inherently implausible excuse in the postgame news conference. It was pathetic. I can't help but think at least one of the games of his two-game suspension was tacked on for his rambling, incoherent explanation. The league won't say that publicly, but privately officials have acknowledged to several people that Suh did himself no favors.

Since then, he has written a slightly better apology and most recently called commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize. Seems to me that that is way too little, far too late.

This isn't the first time Suh has handled himself with a lack of class since my column in August praising his playing style, which I still appreciate. According to several Atlanta players, he taunted and ridiculed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in Week 7 after Ryan got hurt. That goes against everything I was always taught as a professional player -- have respect for a guy if he gets hurt, given the danger that always exists in between the white lines. Suh denied the allegations, halfheartedly, before saying something about "karma."

Suh's biggest problem is that if he wasn't a marked man before, he will be now. If I was a lineman for the Packers -- or any team, really -- I would make it a point to be as physical with Suh as possible. Teams already were trying to be physical with him before, but now there is dual incentive.

For one, there's a chance to get revenge in a legal way. Football is a physical game, and there are plenty of opportunities for offensive linemen to exact punishment on a defensive tackle such as Suh. It could be a rib shot while one lineman is freed up in pass protection and Suh attempts to bull rush his teammate, or an aggressive cut block on the back side of a zone play.

Perhaps more importantly, Suh has now has a well-deserved reputation as a dirty player. As a result, he will be watched very closely. There is no doubt in my mind that coaches and players will talk about trying to agitate Suh and draw a personal foul penalty, or possibly, an ejection. That's how the NFL works.

In other words, if Suh thought he was a target of officials and other players before, he is in for a wake-up call. He hasn't seen anything yet.

From the inbox

Q. I love your columns. I always find great insight into the unseen aspects of the NFL game. I need your help on this one. DeSean Jackson makes a big 50-yard catch against the Giants a week ago and taunts the NYG bench. He gets a penalty for it, which, in my mind, should not negate the catch; it should make the Eagles go backward a bit after the catch. Then the referee mentions that the Giants got called for a penalty, meaning both fouls offset. I'm like, "Wait a minute: If the Giants don't commit a penalty, catch stands and the Eagles go backward a bit. But the Giants' committing a penalty actually helps them in this case because it offsets the entire play?" That makes no sense.

Jason from Montreal

A. You're right. That is how the rule is currently constituted, and it is amazingly illogical. The Giants received a 35-yard benefit on the play you mentioned because they committed a foul. It certainly feels like a loophole that the Competition Committee should attempt to close this offseason.

Q. What current college QB do you see the Miami Dolphins drafting, since it appears they have lost the race for Andrew Luck. My thoughts: Landry Jones, Kellen Moore or Matt Barkley, in that order. Thank you.

Reddick from Cathedral City, Calif.

A. I haven't studied these college quarterbacks enough to form a final opinion and neither have the teams. That is what the pre-draft process is for. They might not all even be eligible to draft -- Jones and Barkley are both underclassmen and have yet to announce their plans. Based on what I have seen from those three on television this season, however, I'd take Barkley. He runs a pro-style offense; they ask him to do a lot, and he handles all of it exceptionally well. The question for the Dolphins is whether they will be able to get him if he comes out. If they keep playing well under Matt Moore, they could end up not having a top-10 pick if they win a few more games.

Q. How loud is it really on the field in a loud environment? We hear about all these great home field advantages, and I was just wondering if it really affects offensive communication that much?

Jon from Overland Park, Kan.

A. Loud enough that you can't hear anything from a quarterback who is standing 5 yards behind you, forcing the away team to go to a silent cadence. Although teams have become more comfortable operating that way, it's still a very real disadvantage for the away team because it no longer has the built-in snap count edge. Maybe it's just because I'm not playing anymore, or maybe it's that fans are distracted by their smart phones and tracking their fantasy football teams, but it doesn't seem to me that the crowds are as noisy as they used to be.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in a seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams during his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com. Tucker, who also hosts ESPN.com's Football Today podcast, graduated from Princeton.