In fact, the play in question and the NFL's fine clearly show that the microscope Suh rightfully earned is now being used to levy unfair punishment.
Without much doubt, an NFL hell-bent on improving player safety has been afforded every reason to watch Suh more closely. There should be no arguing that point, from Suh or his most adamant supporters.
Before this fine, Suh had tallied $177,500 over six previous fines and another $165,000 in lost game checks thanks to a two-game suspension. He was even docked $100,000—the largest ever fine for an on-field incident—earlier this season after his dangerous and illegal low block on Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan.
Another reckless act in line with his roughing of quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Andy Dalton, stomp on Evan Dietrich-Smith or block on Sullivan, and Suh was looking at another sizable suspension from the NFL.
Yet nothing about his hit on Weeden last Sunday was reckless, dirty or even illegal.
Below is a video of the play in question:
First things first: This is not a roughing the passer situation, as Weeden is delivering the football just as Suh makes contact. The hit was timely and well before the window in which the NFL considers a roughing act.
Secondly, Suh does not drive his helmet into the head or neck area of Weeden. There was actually zero contact with the head. In fact, Suh appears to go out of his way to avoid striking the Browns quarterback high.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Suh is not using his helmet as a weapon. He lowers his head, but the helmet is not used to strike Weeden. Instead, Suh uses his arms to push Weeden to the ground while the crown of his helmet makes brief contact with Weeden's chest.
This was a violent play, but not a dirty or illegal one. The NFL is overextending its reach in this situation, and it's only natural to wonder how much of that is due to Suh's past as a player.
If the jersey number on the tackle wasn't "90", would this play have been reviewed further?
Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officials, was taped by the NFL Network while working the league's officiating command center on Sunday. Suh's hit is featured in the video, and Blandino is taped saying the following:
"No. 90 hits the quarterback, lowers his head, and it was not called," Blandino said. "Potential helmet to the body."
A potential helmet to the body? Sure. Suh's helmet does make brief contact with Weeden's chest. And we've seen the NFL penalize and fine helmet-to-body plays in the past (see Nick Perry vs. Andrew Luck below).
But whereas Perry led, struck and finished through Luck with his helmet, Suh did nothing of the sort. His push of Weeden was the finish, and his helmet contact was only brief and never a major point of impact.
This entire process, from play review to final fine, reeks of an overreach by the NFL. It's also an example of the league using the poster boy for violent, reckless behavior as a safety pinata of sorts.
Using the microscope Suh earned, the NFL brought down an unwarranted punishment on an otherwise clean play. In the spirit of safety, no one player should be singled out—regardless of past misgivings. The NFL is violating that idea here.
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