These are the three NFL players suspended for two or more games in the last 25 years. Let’s rank them in terms of damage to the victim’s ability to play football.
Charles Martin, 27 (at the time of the foul). Suspended two games.
Incident: November 1986, Packers-Bears. On a 3rd-and-10, No. 94 with Green Bay comes off the left side and after Jim McMahon has thrown the ball, two good seconds later—you count it—Martin picks McMahon up from behind and throws him down. You could argue that since McMahon’s pass had been intercepted Martin was merely making a play. But there was no return, no run back at all, and that seemed to be clear to both. For an instant they were both still. McMahon, whose shoulder was already injured, was out for the rest of the season.
Related behavior: Don’t forget Martin’s hit list on his hand towel for that game. Martin, a journeyman with a reputation for dirty play, died at 45 in 2005. We don’t have information about his private life. But more to the point we don’t know whether and how he might have apologized to McMahon. Perhaps, you could fill in that detail.
Albert Haynesworth, 25 (at the time of the foul). Suspended five games.
Incident: To me the most striking aspect of what Haynesworth did to Andre Gurode is the premeditation. Play is over; whistle blown. And beyond the initial kicking, which you can’t see clearly from the video, there is the stomp itself, reminiscent of the way you might crush a cigarette with your shoe. Gurode took 30 stitches, an apology, some headaches and was back the next week.
Related behavior: 2011, Road rage charge, Groping-a-waitress charge. 2010: “Conduct detrimental” to the Redskins. 2003: Kicked a teammate in training camp; same year, road rage charges dismissed. 1999: Attempted to go after teammate with a pole in college practice. That, along with an alleged impregnation; failure to make a sizeable loan payment; and involvement in a car accident that lead to the other driver partially paralyzed.
Apology: “What I did out there was disgusting. It doesn't matter what the league does to me. The way I feel right now, you just can't describe it."
Ndamukong Suh, 24. Suspended two games.
Incident: To my eye, pushing the player’s head down three times is more egregious then the kick, which sounds bad but when you see it, it’s incidental. As hits go, not so much. In fact, if you saw Isa Abdul-Quddus' hit on Hakeem Nicks in the last Monday night game: leading with the helmet, full of intention, and if you didn’t know the game, you might wonder why that wouldn’t draw a similar reaction.
Related behavior: Remember that in the local dialect in Cameroon, his name means “House of Spears.” He has received a two-game suspension because this was the fifth incident this year in which he has been disciplined for something done on the field. Career total in fines: $42,500. He has nine personal fouls in his first two years. A record. A Sporting News poll (h/t mlive.com) of NFL players named him the dirtiest player.
Reaction After the Game: “Why you see me pushing his helmet down is because I’m trying to remove myself from the situation. And as I’m getting up I’m getting pushed, so I’m getting on balance and getting out of the situation…I’m on one leg and I’m trying to get off that myself and at the same time being pushed by his teammates. So where, how am I to do anything else? "
Of the three incidents Martin clearly caused the most injury, with the greatest effect. Haynesworth drew the most blood. And Suh? He showed no contrition.
And that’s strange because Suh is reportedly a good guy off the field. There’s no bad guy corollary. No bad echo. He gave a $2.5 million donation to his alma mater, the University of Nebraska. His family is close. So how is it that Haynesworth who seems pathological in his anger at least shows a sense of his problem?
All three players should have been forced out of the game for the rest of the season. Suh’s appeal should be denied. And somebody should talk to him about accepting responsibility. We look at politicians and bankers and shake our heads when they stonewall. We say to them, “you’re done. Not my vote you don’t.”
Why would we treat these athletes any differently? Why do they get a pass? And money is not the answer. A fine is a write-off. The only way to do it is to get them out of the game. But two games or five games is too little. Make it hurt. Make it a problem for the team, not just the player.
No one wants to neuter the game. For sure. But the violence needs a limit.