The Detroit Lions were more than excited when they were able to draft Ndamukong Suh, and his play has been amazing thus far. During his first year, he took home defensive Rookie of the Year honors and was mentioned in the conversation for overall Defensive Player of the Year. He has helped change the mindset of the organization, and in a very short time, has helped to lift the team out of the decade long bog that Matt Millen drove them into.
Sadly though, he now is being looked at less for being a dominant force in the league, but instead as one of the dirtiest players. He has been fined on numerous occasions for his on-field actions. He even requested a meeting with the Commissioner last month in an effort to curb the trend.
It has now grown to the point where he is doing more damage to the team than good. Not only has he been labeled as a dirty player, but now the team has as well. He will not get the benefit on any call and as seen in the Thanksgiving Day game, neither will his team.
Every game will see some questionable calls; it is part of the human element of the games in that refs will make a mistake. Generally they tend to even out eventually, but in the Lions' case, they now come into games with a target on them. Not only will borderline calls go against them, but even some mysterious calls.
During the Thanksgiving game, Kyle Vanden Bosch had a textbook clean hit on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. It was not late, did not hit the head nor lead with the crown of the helmet. It was a play done right, yet a flag was thrown for roughing the passer. This is the Suh Effect. The dirty label extends beyond Suh, and now the team is penalized. The team currently sits tied as the third-most penalized team in the NFL.
Interesting pass interference calls, personal fouls and other calls are piling up against the Lions. After Suh’s ejection from Thursday’s game for repeatedly pounding Parker lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground, then stomping on him, he is facing another hefty fine and likely a suspension. Now beyond getting penalties on the field and hurting the team, he will hurt them more by missing game(s). It will be interesting to see if the amount of penalties against the team goes down with him out.
Now this does not mean that the team is better without Suh, but the Lions need a smarter, cleaner version of him to evolve out of his current state. Suh gave a rather weak account of his actions after yesterday’s game. His postgame response pointed the finger at everyone but the guilty party, himself.
"I want to apologize to my teammates, my coaches and my true fans for allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game," Suh said. "What I did was remove myself from the situation the best way I felt, with me being held down."
"My intention was not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself," he said. "I was on top of a guy, being pulled down, and trying to get up off the ground -- and why you see me pushing his helmet down, because I'm trying to remove myself from the situation, and as I'm getting up, I'm getting pushed, so I'm getting myself on balance."
His on-field response of stomping on another player was beyond excessive and that does not even include using Dietrch-Smith’s head like a basketball. He postgame response showed no remorse or ownership of his wrongful act.
Suh is one of the most intelligent players in the league. He is also one of the most confident and self assured. His ego goes beyond the standard chest thumping, trash talking braggadocio normally seen in the league. In his post-game press conference, Suh mentioned his “true” fans. This statement makes it seem as though he only wants "yes" men, a popular mistake among athletes heading in the wrong direction. He needs to not only hear, but listen to people who will tell him he is wrong and that he must change his ways.
He is intelligent enough to be able to objectively view not only the events of the last game, but in total how his actions are affecting how he and his team are viewed. If he cannot do this, then it is time for the team to step in and have this conversation with him.
Suh has the ability to lead this defensive unit and team to a very high level. While there is nothing wrong with being viewed as a tough, aggressive defense, he has now established a reputation that forces the team to not only play the opposing team, but also the refs. It is hard to blame the refs in some of these calls, as they have seen the videos and heard the reputation.
Suh can change, he has too. A once promising start to the season has started to fade. According to ESPN, Suh will be suspended for at least two games. This will make an already difficult trip to New Orleans even harder and a must-win game against the Vikings more of a challenge.
Suh’s play had put the team in position to end their long playoff drought and now his on-field actions may cost them their spot. Suh needs to quickly do an honest self evaluation and figure out how to play within the rules of the game. His team, fans and adopted city are all counting on him.