After only one full season and a handful of preseason games, has Ndamukong Suh crossed the threshold into being labeled a dirty player?
In a word, no.
I personally don’t believe it’s reasonable to label a player “dirty” because he consistently finishes plays.
Did it warrant a fine? Yes.
Yet, instances such as the Dalton hit this preseason and the Jay Cutler hit in the regular season of 2010 have been taken into consideration when incorrectly labeling the play of Ndamukong Suh.
You can analyze the defensive fronts across the entire National Football League, and you’d be hard pressed to find more than 2-3 “game changers” at the defensive tackle position.
But Ndamukong Suh is just that—a “game changer.”
He’s exactly the ferocious defensive prospect that head coach Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions organization expect him to be.
The incomparable Suh isn’t and has never been a play-to-the-whistle type of player.
He is a play-through-the-whistle finisher that looks to execute each tackle with ruthless aggression.
Suh has made a career in eluding and dispatching a multitude of offensive-line schemes built to precise specifications with stopping him of utmost importance.
And he is primarily responsible for revitalizing an entire franchise.
Ndamukong Suh is capable of making the impossible possible.
But he has been for the most part unable to do one thing, escape national media scrutiny.
CBSSports.com national columnist Mike Freeman is the latest writer in what has become a long line of journalists to vocalize his distaste of Suh’s actions on the field.
The opening sentence in his latest column reads,
"It's official: Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player.”
Freeman goes on in his article to say that,
“He no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. There's too much evidence to the contrary. That great smile, nice off-field demeanor and cool ass car commercial can no longer shield him from what has become a definite. He plays dirty.”
Suh may play with a callous tenacity, but he is by no means “dirty.”
I implore Mike Freeman—or anyone else for that matter—to find a man of Suh’s size that plays with the high-motor intensity that he displays in a game as insignificant as a preseason affair.
From the outside looking in it can look as if Suh plays with ill intention, and from the outset it was purely about building respect.
But now it’s about something entirely different—fear.
"We wanted to earn respect last year," Suh told CBS following the Lions' game against New England on Saturday night. "I felt we did that. We want to continue to earn that respect. And now it's with fear, it's all about fear. It's about having quarterbacks fear us, offensive linemen fear us, every single game we step into. And that's by our play. So we want to continue to get after quarterbacks and offensive lines and wreak havoc."
In journalism, you have to be profound in your beliefs and passionate in your writing.
I have gone out of my way to never publicly bash or humiliate another writer and will continue to do so.
But in this instance, Mike Freeman is just plain wrong.