Ndamukong Suh was on the ground, entangled with the Green Bay lineman who had blocked him down. As Suh got up, the Detroit All-Pro pinned Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head against the turf, then was pushed off of him.
What happened next will only fuel the discussion about whether Suh’s aggressive play too often crosses the line.
Suh stepped down hard with his right foot, appearing to stomp Dietrich-Smith’s right arm, and the Detroit star was ejected from the Lions’ 27-15 loss to the unbeaten Packers on Thursday. As much as the Lions have accomplished this season, this was another Thanksgiving nightmare, full of injuries, turnovers and undisciplined play.
”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.”
Suh apologized, but the powerful defensive tackle was quick to defend himself, saying he was trying to keep his balance while freeing himself from the brief scuffle.
”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.”
Suh’s third-quarter dismissal helped turn a close game into a rout. It came on third down when the Lions appeared to have forced Green Bay to settle for a short field goal. Instead, the Packers scored a touchdown moments later, taking a 14-0 lead on John Kuhn’s 1-yard run.
It was 24-0 at the start of the fourth, and although the Lions (7-4) scored a couple late touchdowns, they lost on Thanksgiving for the eighth straight time, 27-15.
For Suh, it was another data point in the growing discussion about whether the 6-foot-4, 307-pounder plays dirty. 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 season 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 — be it a fine, a suspension or both — is merited in this case.
”I can’t speak on that,” Suh said. ”I don’t have a decision in that.”
Asked by FOXSports.com in an email whether Suh was facing a possible suspension for the ejection, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote, "Plays from week 12 to be reviewed for potential discipline will be done so under our normal procedures after the completion of all games."
In August, Suh was fined a third time for roughing up a quarterback after grabbing Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and throwing him to the turf after he had gotten rid of the ball in a preseason game. He was fined twice last season for hits on Chicago’s Jay Cutler during the regular season and Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme in the preseason. He shoved Cutler hard and high in the back and twisted Delhomme’s face mask and slammed him to the ground.
“We were just playing hard. Stuff went down and we went to the ground. I know my guys came and had my back on it," Dietrich-Smith said. "By the time I got up, whistles were being blown and they were throwing flags.
The next thing I know, he’s getting kicked out. We’ll have to watch the film and see exactly what happened, but obviously what he did wasn’t the right thing and he was penalized for it.”