Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a chance to prove to the football-watching world on Thursday afternoon that he is indeed one of the game's great defensive players. Instead, all Suh did was confirm to us something many at least suspected: He is a dirty football player.
Suh, who has developed a reputation as a player who constantly blurs the line between playing aggressive and playing dirty, was up to the tactics that had developed that reputation against the Green Bay Packers.
In front of a national stage, Suh crossed and went flying by the line when he stomped on Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith during the third quarter. Suh was flagged — a penalty that led to a John Kuhn touchdown — and just as importantly was ejected from the game. The Packers went on to score two more touchdowns in the quarter allowing them to coast to a win over their division rivals.
The play itself was simply unacceptable, and it at least somewhat resembled Albert Haynesworth's infamous stomp of Andre Gurode in 2006. The significance of this play is magnified, however, by Suh's growing reputation as a dirty player. After Thursday, that's no longer just a reputation. It's now a known fact.
Perhaps the most alarming thing about Suh's actions on Thursday is the type of repercussions that came with and may follow the play. The penalty moved the Packers half the distance to the goal line, leading to the aforementioned Kuhn touchdown. Then, with roughly a quarter and a half to play, Suh left his team without its best defensive player. Some will tell you that Suh's aggressive play is the type of compete level a young, developing team like the Lions need. Even those people will be able to admit was Suh did Thursday was stupid and irresponsible. You could even call it a selfish football play.
We'll find out in the coming days what the real damage of Suh's selfishness will be. Roger Goodell and the nice people at the NFL offices have proven that they don't mess around. With that and Suh's past history in mind, you have to assume he'll sit out at least one game, right? For a team battling for a playoff spot, Suh's actions may play a large part in Detroit's fate this season.
And you know what? Hopefully Goodell and Co. come down hard on Suh. He's an incredible talent, there's no denying that, but actions like these have no place in football. The NFL should discipline Suh, and do so strongly, almost as a favor to the defensive tackle. Apparently, the three fines that Suh's received in his young career haven't gotten through to him. Maybe sitting him down for a couple of weeks will get the message through.
No matter the message, Suh will have to prove that he's learned from any punishment handed to him. Much like someone with an addiction, he must first admit he has a problem.
"I'll consider myself a dirty player when my mom calls me a dirty player," Suh said recently.
Hopefully Suh, and his mom as well, can now look at No. 90 in silver and blue and realize that he is a dirty player. From there, he can work on changing his ways.
Suh needs not lose his aggressiveness. It's what makes him an exciting player to watch. However, if he can finally start to figure out to use that aggressiveness in the best possible way, the best of the league will have to pay even more attention to him than they already do — and it will be for all the right reasons.