This is one of those rare situations where everybody is right, but nobody wins.
The NFL has publicly stated its commitment to protecting its players.
Based on the precedent he’s set over the past few seasons, it would be hypocritical for Roger Goodell not to impose a fine for Suh’s hit on Andy Dalton.
However, Suh clearly wasn’t trying to injure Dalton. He was trying to send a message. He was making sure that Dalton didn’t forget who was on the other side of the line.
Ndamukong Suh was just doing his job, part of which involves scaring the daylights out of opposing quarterbacks. It may seem trivial, but that extra intimidation factor can have a tangible effect on the field.
Just imagining the depth of Suh’s bad intentions might cause an opposing passer to throw a pass a split-second before his receiver is ready, or take off at a run before giving the play a chance to develop.
At an even higher level, intimidation can change the way an offensive coordinator builds his game plan. Going up against a freight train like Suh might convince a coach to leave a couple of extra tight ends or running backs in for protection.
The Lions have improved their secondary, but it’s still not a strength, and anything that the front four can do to turn receivers into blockers can only help the back seven.
Though I think it’s safe to assume that Suh does take some level of enjoyment from tossing quarterbacks around like life-sized wrestling buddies, he really is doing this for the greater good of his team.
Football is a violent sport, but as Suh himself said, “There's only the fine line of dirtiness and the fine line of aggressiveness. I know to this point and in my own heart that I haven't crossed that line by any means."
A major part of what has made Suh so devastating since he entered the league is his relentless aggression. The phrase “mean streak” doesn’t even begin to define the combination of malice and intensity that Suh brings to the table. No doubt, he flirts with the “line," but the instant that Suh backs off the throttle, he may lose the edge that vaulted him to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
He knows that. And he knows that his edge is worth way more than $20,000.
So Suh will begrudgingly pay whatever fines the commissioner decides to dish out, all the while knowing that he can take out his anger on whatever unfortunate quarterback happens to show up next on the Lions’ schedule.