The NFL decided Monday not to suspend Suh for the controversial lineman’s kick to Matt Schaub‘s groin during the Lions-Texans Thanksgiving game. It was the right call by the NFL, but we’d all be crazy to think Suh won’t land in hot water again at some point, and the Lions therefore need to start taking matters into their own hands.
By not suspending Suh, the league basically said it was unable to determine whether he intentionally kicked Schaub. That’s fair, because while Suh’s previous transgressions make it hard to view the Turkey Day boot as anything but malicious, there was at least some debate. And without clearly determining the kick was intentional and thus illegal, it’s hard to suspend the player.
Now that all that “let’s be fair” mumbo jumbo is out of the way, let’s look at what we really have here. Suh is hands-down the dirtiest player in the NFL. Players, fans, coaches, experts, your barber, the guy next door, his wife and the entire pub softball team will tell you that. At first, one could have made the argument that Suh’s antics were simply the product of a hard-nosed style of play, and thus something that should be lauded. Now, after watching his annual holiday bootfests, it’s hard to make sense of Suh’s actions.
Unfortunately for the Lions, that’s what they’re tasked with doing. While any defense would be thrilled to add a talented pass rusher like Suh, it’s the constant line-crossing that he’s become most known for in less than three full NFL seasons. It’s now at the point where the Nebraska product is under a microscope every time he steps onto the field, and that’s dangerous territory for a defense that relies so heavily on Suh’s presence.
The NFL would have reviewed last Thursday’s incident regardless of the culprit, but the fact that it was Suh immediately made everyone assume there was intent. Fair assumption? You bet. How else should we respond to a notoriously dirty player delivering a questionable kick?
It’s actually somewhat surprising the NFL didn’t fall into a similar trap, but had the league been a victim of the moment and suspended Suh, it might have opened a can of worms in the precedent it would have set for the next time a player “cleaner” than Suh really does inadvertently kick an opposing player. Don’t think for a minute the NFL is taking Suh’s kick lightly, though. Thursday’s questionable behavior — while maybe not deemed suspension-worthy — will still serve as further evidence going forward. The NFL should and probably will look at this play the next time Suh steps out of line. And he will step out of line.
Such heavy scrutiny is the reason Detroit’s coaching staff needs to step in and either discipline Suh now or make it clear that it will be adopting a more iron-fisted approach going forward. Likewise, Suh’s teammates need to start flexing their muscles. Suh is just too important to the Lions’ defense for the team to have to constantly worry about losing him for games because he can’t keep his emotions in check and play within the confines of the new, safer, intolerable NFL.
A hard-nosed, aggressive style of play is a breath of fresh air in a league in which good tackling is less real than a unicorn. Stupidity is not, and Suh continues to walk the fine line week in and week out.
Photo via Facebook/Ndamukong Suh