"Not the old Lions."
That's what Ndamukong Suh said when I asked him for a headline to forecast the 2012 season.
Bring on the doubters, says Suh.
"I was a defensive lineman coming out of high school who was considered amongst the top...maybe the top six guys, top five guys and wanted to prove to my team that I was going to be a top guy going into college."
Suh told me all this from the Subway Avocado Superfood Training Camp in Southern California, where he had been putting some media members through a workout similar to what he went through at the combine.
"I proved that going into Nebraska, helping my team win games and get to Bowl games and so forth," Suh said. "The same thing happened when I became a senior at Nebraska. I had to deal with the fact that nobody saw me as the top defensive tackle for the draft and so I wanted to come in and improve upon that."
Suh admits the off-field behavior does have ramifications. It may not be all bad, though.
"Obviously it’s going to be a distraction a little bit with some guys missing some time, but that allows younger guys to step up and play some big roles," he said. "Which they have the ability to do, or they wouldn’t be on the team."
There's also the galvanizing of the team as one group.
"We really need to take this kind of concept of banding together and being a band of brothers—us against the world. And stick together so we can get to what we want to accomplish," Suh said.
Suh says for his part, it's helping to get the defense to where it needs to be:
"Last year, we started out really really hot and we kind of mellowed out through the middle of the season."
He saw enough to know the answer on defense is actually pretty simple.
"We started bringing it back in little spurts throughout the season and the end of the season and really it’s a simple one-word answer—that is we need to work on our consistency as a defensive whole," he said.
There are reports that the Lions are going to move Suh and other defensive linemen around to keep the opposition on its toes.
"I mean, honestly, moving around keeps the offense off balance," Suh said. "They don’t know where guys are going to go, they don’t know where they’re going to be."
If you think shuffling Suh around and preaching consistency might be two concepts at odds, think again.
"That’s kind of what we did a little bit in my rookie season. I’m excited to be able to get back to that and be able to have some fun doing it as well," he said.
Suh thinks that moving people around on the line makes everybody aware of where they should be and cuts down on confusion.
Despite the off-field issues, Suh feels the team has had a good offseason where it counts—on the field.
"I think we had a great minicamp and OTA session and I hope we can pick up where we left off when we get to camp," he said.
As far as Suh is concerned, the positives for this defense and team far outweigh any negative actions off the field.
"We have great, tremendous athletes and we dealt with some injuries which obviously played a little bit of a role in some of the down play that we had throughout the year," Suh said. "But just staying consistent and allowing us to just play on all cylinders at a very high level will allow us to be amongst the top-10 defenses in the league."
If the Lions can do that, they'll have plenty of ammunition to prove the naysayers wrong.