Playing on the edge, or over it?
Oct 16, 2013 at 6:56p ET
While sacking Dalton late in the first quarter of the first preseason game of 2011, Suh slammed the Bengals' quarterback to the turf at Ford Field. He incurred a penalty flag on the play for roughing the passer and the NFL later fined him $20,000.
The numbers suggest that Suh, now in his fourth season, has become more disciplined in his play but there is still an edge and intensity to him, as Browns' quarterback Brandon Weeden found out the hard way last Sunday. It's an edge and intensity the Bengals are going to have to contain this weekend when they travel to Detroit to face the Lions.
It permeates the Lions defense, especially inside of Ford Field. It's also a fine line to learn to play in today's game where cameras are everywhere and they catch everything, even the stuff the game officials don't.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is learning about that line. He picked up three personal fouls in the first half at Buffalo last week, two for unnecessary roughness. He was fined a total of $31,000 after the Week 3 game against Green Bay for two separate incidents -- one a called penalty, and one a play that drew a flag against Packers tight end Ryan Taylor because the referees didn't see Burfict strike Taylor in the groin area first.
When James Harrison was with the Steelers, he was constantly at/over the line. That kind of attitude and edge in his style of play is part of the reason why the Bengals signed Harrison this past offseason. He might not get a lot of snaps each week but he brings a presence to the team regardless.
"I've talked to (Burfict). I talked to him today about it," said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. "Guys are going to get helmet-to-helmet and facemask once in a while. It's the other penalties we have to be careful of that we don't get. That's not just with him, that's with all of our guys."
Head coach Marvin Lewis this week shot down the idea that Burfict is gaining a reputation among officials of being a player who'll go over the edge. Yet how Burfict melds his aggressive style to the closely-watched rules that are going to err on the side of caution and player safety is going to be part of his growth.
The NFL announces fines on Friday each week. Burfict could possibly be taking another hit in the wallet, depending on how the league sees things.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Suh is going to be fined $31,500 for the hit he put on Weeden late in the first quarter of last Sunday's 31-17 Lions' win in Cleveland. Suh was not called for a penalty, but the league officials announced they were going to take a closer look at the hit to see if Suh lowered his head into Weeden's body. Suh has already been fined $100,000 this season due to a low block in Week 1 against Minnesota during an interception return.
According to Matt Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Suh has been fined six times since entering the NFL in 2010 for a total of $177,500 plus been suspended without pay for two games that cost him an additional $165,294. He's been disqualified from one game and of the 27 penalties he's been called for in his career, 10 have been for personal fouls.
He's had just two personal foul calls in the last two seasons, however.
"He plays with a lot of intensity and plays the game with a lot of emotion and has a lot of talent," said Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "Nobody has any problem with that. Just some of the after-whistle things that happen outside of that realm of playing intensely really aren't called for. It is what it is, he's a young player and he's going to make mistakes.
"I don't create some drama about him. He's a good football player, some of that stuff is more personal stuff for him where if he eliminates it a lot more guys would have a lot more respect for him, as good a player as he is. I think sometimes he diminishes his ability to be known as a great player because I think he's more known for a lot of those things sometimes."
There's always that fine line.