For the first season-and-a-half of his young career, Ndamukong Suh could almost brush off talk about his penalties and fines, saying he would keep doing what was needed to help his Detroit Lions.
After hurting the team with a penalty and ejection on Thanksgiving, Suh now says he has learned his lesson.
”My reaction on Thursday was unacceptable,” the star defensive tackle said in a statement on his Facebook page Friday night. ”I made a mistake, and have learned from it. I hope to direct the focus back to the task at hand — by winning.”
The statement appeared on Suh’s page around the same time he was publically chastised by the Lions, one night after being ejected Thursday in a loss to Green Bay for stomping at an opposing player.
”The on-field conduct exhibited by Ndamukong Suh that led to his ejection from yesterday’s game was unacceptable and failed to meet the high level of sportsmanship we expect from our players,” the team said. ”Ndamukong has made many positive contributions to the Lions on and off the field. We expect his behavior going forward to consistently reflect that high standard of professionalism.”
It could be several days before Suh finds out the true cost of his third-quarter stomp in Detroit’s 27-15 loss to the Packers on Thursday. An NFL spokesman said Friday that plays from Week 12 looked at for potential discipline won’t be reviewed until all games are completed.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was curt after Thursday’s defeat when asked if he was worried about a possible suspension.
”I’m worried about losing this game,” Schwartz said.
Suh was dismissed after tangling with Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. After being pushed off Dietrich-Smith, Suh stepped down hard with his right foot, appearing to make contact with Dietrich-Smith’s right arm.
Suh said he was trying to keep his balance while freeing himself from the brief scuffle. He publically apologized to teammates, coaches and fans for ”allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game,” but he insisted he didn’t intentionally step on anyone.
”People are going to have their own opinions — that’s fine,” he said after the game. ”The only (people) that I really care about are my teammates, my true fans and my coaches and their opinions, and that’s where it lies. And honestly, the most important person in this whole thing that I have to deal with is the man upstairs.”
In his Friday statement on Facebook, he said he’d had more time to reflect.
”Playing professional sports is not a game,” he said. ”It is a profession with great responsibility, and where performance on and off the field should never be compromised. It requires a calm and determined demeanor, which cannot be derailed by the game, referee calls, fans or other players.”
In less than two seasons as a pro, Suh has established himself as one of the game’s strongest and most athletic defensive linemen, but he’s also received his share of fines.
Suh requested and received a meeting earlier this month with Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his play. He said that dialogue was helpful, but now the league will have to decide whether more discipline is merited after he was ejected on national television.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan came up with one tongue-in-cheek solution Friday.
”I’ll be honest with you, I think the young man, he should be released . . . and come to the Jets,” Ryan joked. ”I’m just throwing that out there. I don’t think he’s that good of a player. I don’t know about the incident and all that jazz, but we’ll take him. We’ll sacrifice that way.”
Ryan then turned a little more serious.
”I don’t even know what to say on it,” Ryan said. ”You’ve seen things like that happen on the field before. It’s an emotional game.”
Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson, who played with Suh at Nebraska, sounded off on the topic Friday.
”Somebody needs to get him under control, because he’s trying to hurt people,” Slauson told the New York Post. ”It’s one thing to be an incredibly physical player and a tenacious player, but it’s another thing to set out to end that guy’s career.”
Slauson said last year that he and Suh used to mix it up in practice while in college.
”There were times we got into fights, during spring ball, during camp, but I kind of fought everyone,” Slauson said then.
In 2006, Albert Haynesworth, then with the Tennessee Titans, was suspended five games after swiping his cleats across the head of helmetless Dallas center Andre Gurode. Suh’s stomp wasn’t toward Dietrich-Smith’s head, and the Green Bay player didn’t seem too much worse for wear.
When asked afterward where Suh stepped on him, Dietrich-Smith sounded like he didn’t want to stir the pot.
”I have no idea,” he said. ”I have to watch the tape.”
If Suh is suspended early next week, he would have a chance to keep playing pending any appeal — but that appeals process can be expedited. Detroit plays at New Orleans on Dec. 4.
The NFL moved that game to prime time, a reflection of the buzz surrounding the improved Lions this season. Led by young stars Suh, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, Detroit won its first five games, but the Lions have since lost four of six.
Defensive backs Louis Delmas, Chris Houston and Brandon McDonald went down with injuries against the Packers, and so did running back Kevin Smith. If the Lions are without Suh for an extended period, it could hurt them in the playoff race.
”He plays aggressive. All of us, sometimes, might overreact in certain situations,” Detroit defensive lineman Cliff Avril said. ”We’ve got to play real smart.”