The NFL is really bugging. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stepped on Aaron Rogers, but it was hardly malicious and it wasn’t a stomp or an aggressive lean even. There’s a chance that it wasn’t even intentional, but Suh’s history as a modern-day “enforcer” of sorts doesn’t allow him the benefit of that doubt. But numerous media jesters have reported false information and a hyperbolic description of the situation that reeks of pro-Aaron Rodgers, booty licking.
One particular reputable publication described the incident as such and covered their ass by attributing it to the NFL.
Suh got in trouble for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' left leg twice, once with each foot. Suh also applied pressure and pushed off Rodgers' unprotected leg with his left foot, violating unnecessary roughness rules, the league said.
The infraction that I witnessed (sorry I don’t have my discount double check 3-D goggles) certainly didn’t call for the four-time Pro Bowler to be suspended from Sunday’s opening-round playoff game. That’s just over-the-top and another example of how arbitrary, confusing and dysfunctional the NFL front offices folks are.
Suh was also fined $100,000 last season for an illegal low block on Minnesota center John Sullivan. He has been fined for roughing up Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Chicago's Jay Cutler, then-Houston quarterback Matt Schaub and then-Cleveland quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Brandon Weeden.
According to a statement released by the NFL, Suh "unnecessarily stepped on [the] opponent's unprotected leg as he lay on the ground unable to protect himself."
Suh is appealing the suspension, and his appeal will be heard by Ted Cottrell. All reports indicate that he has a solid shot of getting the excessive penalty overturned.
The NFL has always had trench warfare players with an edge. In recent years, Bill Romanowski who still finds work as a commentator and is a revered four-time Super Bowl champion to this day, was as dirty as it gets.
He hasn’t played since 2003 and still gets top billing on every “Dirtiest Athletes” list in existence. Opposing players hated him and justifiably feared him. He was a live wire. A firecracker. A coach’s dream and worst nightmare. But the troops followed.
On the field he was notorious for playing throwback ball—stepping on players, spitting on players, talking about ya’ moms. He even busted a teammate’s eye socket in practice and almost did a bid for it. Difference is, he was revered for it. The consensus opinion is that it was a part of his game; the way he gained an edge over other players. Romanowski’s ratchet sportsmanship was lauded as toughness.
It gave him a celebrity appeal that defensive players typically don’t enjoy. He was also white in a league that’s 70 percent black so he got that Iggy Azalea treatment. His popularity suggested that he was better than he actually was.
What Suh did to Rogers was light stuff. He didn’t make Rogers cringe in pain or break his ankle. It was a cheap shot. The type of cheap shot that Suh has made a wide receiver-type name for himself with—at a position that is mired in obscurity.
The way Suh draws attention to himself through unnecessary low blows and obviously craves the spotlight is similar to primadonna wide receivers doing elaborate celebratory dances, demanding the ball and convincing the casual football fan that they are in some way the most important players on the field.
Wide receivers tend to overestimate their importance, but when you have an all-world DT leading your defense, he’s actually worth the billing. Problem is, most of these big guys are just trying to keep their jobs and fit in. Suh is leading the charge. He’s the front man. He’s the cat that sets the tone and lets offenses know that it’s going to be a rough day for the backfield. Victory in the NFL begins at the line of scrimmage. Suh protects his house by any means necessary. This ain’t a ballroom dancing competition. It’s a blood sport. Don’t get it twisted.
A penalty flag or even a significant fine would suffice. To shift the entire balance of Sunday’s wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys—a team with the NFL’s runaway rushing leader Demarco “three inches and a cloud of dust” Murray—by erasing Suh from the picture is just plain grimy. It reeks of Jerry Jones-jocking and Tony Romo-rocking.
The Lions are praying to the football gods for a reversal.
Lions center Dominic Raiola, who himself returned from a one-game suspension Monday, defended Suh's actions.
"He was getting pushed back, you know," Raiola said. "... There's no way at that point in the game that he did something like that on purpose."
Lions safety James Ihedigbo said missing Suh will create a large void on defense.
"I don't know if you can put it into words," Ihedigbo said. "He's a dominant force in our defense. He's kind of the key centerpiece. We have faith in guys that can step up and fill that void and do the best job they can to get this win and help us out.
"It's unfortunate, whatever way you want to slice it. You're losing one of your best defensive players and one of the best D-linemen in the league, it's unfortunate."
If Suh's appeal is denied, Detroit would be without both of its first-round defensive tackle selections as they try to win a playoff game for the first time since 1991. First-year Lions HC Jim Caldwell said Monday it would take "a miracle" for defensive tackle Nick Fairley to play against the Cowboys. Fairley has not played or practiced since injuring his knee against Atlanta in Week 8.
Something doesn't add up.
Can you imagine the public outcry if Rogers was suspended for stepping on the foot of a Lions defender? The state of Green Bay would be in an uproar and Roger Goodell would be getting death threats. If you thought Jets fans were a bit vicious with their “ Fire Idzik” shirts and coffee mugs, imagine if Houston lost J.J. Watt for a playoff game because he had a late hit on a QB or stepped on a QB’s ankle after the play.
That’s football people. Shit gets dirty. The fundamental purpose of the sport is to decapitate and human-missile-launch on cats. We can’t get too crazy about tact. Gaining an edge is part of the game. When a boxer’s eye is opening up, a smart fighter tries to keep jabbing at that eye until it becomes a balloon. Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off in a fight. That was savage, but some people loved it and it makes anything Suh has ever done look laughable. If a baseball player is coming off broken ribs, as a pitcher you jam him inside with heat and see if he can get that bat around.
You know...“Things men do for $50,000,” in your local jeopardy game.
Some will say Suh made his own bed. If anyone needs to be conscious of over-aggressive and questionable tactics, it’s the NFL’s “dirtiest player,” as so many have called Suh.
At the same time, the NFL has an obligation to the fans to put the best product on the field.
A Lions playoff game without Suh doesn’t seem kosher and it seriously tilts the balance of competition in the Cowboys’ favor. A 12-4 team doesn’t need those kinds of handouts. I just can’t figure out the NFL. Those guys are always all over the place when they need to just focus on the task at hand and that’s providing the greatest level of entertainment, laced in memorable moments and elite performances.