Tough or dirty, Lions’ Suh avoids suspension

There’s a fine line between tough and dirty in the NFL, and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has a knack for crossing it.

At least that’s his reputation.

To the surprise of many, however, the NFL did not come down harshly on Suh for connecting with the groin of Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub during last week’s nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game.

The league confirmed Monday that Suh will not be suspended for the incident, although Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications, wrote in a tweet that the play “will be reviewed for a potential fine.”

Fines typically are announced every Friday.

No player in the league these days is more scrutinized than Suh, who has been voted the NFL’s dirtiest player each of the past two years in a player poll conducted by the Sporting News.

A year ago at this time, he was suspended for two games after getting ejected from the Thanksgiving Day game for stomping on the arm of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

On Monday, the league informed Suh that he would not have to serve time for the latest incident, although a fine is still possible.

The question this time is whether the injury to Schaub’s groin was intentional or not. Suh, who is 6 feet 4 and 307 pounds, was rushing the quarterback when he got upended by an offensive lineman. Suh landed head first on the turf and his left leg swung up in the air and hit Schaub.

Some, including those in the league office apparently, think it’s difficult to determine whether there was definite intent. Others believe that Suh, in his third season in the NFL, clearly did it on purpose.

Two former players working as studio analysts during the CBS telecast aren’t giving Suh any benefit of the doubt.

“I have seen the replay 50 (times) of Suh’s annual Thanksgiving kick. No doubt it was intentional.#disgraceful,” former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason tweeted.

Shannon Sharpe, a former NFL tight end, also believes that Suh is guilty. Here’s what Sharpe wrote in a series of tweets:

• ”Suh needs to get suspended for kicking schaub in the groin. That was a deliberate act.”

• ”He’s a dirty player.”

Not everyone thought it was so clear-cut. Mike Pereira, the referee guru for the FOX network, never expected Suh to get suspended based on his review of the play.

“My guess is that they’ll deem the foot to the crotch to be inadvertent,” Pereira wrote in a column on after the game.

Despite widespread opinions about his nasty style, Suh has been called for only one penalty in 11 games this season, and that was for going offsides.

But his reputation precedes him, largely because the incident with Dietrich-Smith took place in another high-profile game, on Thanksgiving, when so many fans around the nation were watching.

What’s more, Suh’s first two years in the league were filled with numerous questionable hits, if not outright cheap shots. He reportedly had been called for nine personal fouls and fined more than $40,000, not to mention the two-game suspension that cost him $165,000 in salary, entering this season.

It really all started back in August 2010, during a preseason game against Cleveland, in his rookie year. Suh grabbed Jake Delhomme, the Browns’ quarterback, by the helmet and threw him violently to the turf. Some thought it looked as if Suh was trying to separate Delhomme’s head from his body.

A year later, in another preseason game, Suh was called for a similar personal foul when he grabbed Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton by the head and threw him down.

There also have been vicious hits on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler in each of the past three years. The one earlier this season came on a Monday night — another spotlight game — when Suh threw Cutler on his throwing shoulder.

As was the case with last week’s controversial play, Suh didn’t get called for a penalty and there were conflicting opinions on whether he did anything illegal.

Cutler’s teammate, receiver Brandon Marshall, was extremely vocal with his belief that Suh is “dirty” and used a leg whip to help drive the quarterback into the ground.
Cutler and Bears coach Lovie Smith, on the other hand, defended Suh and said that it was just a tough football play.

Neither Schaub nor Texans coach Gary Kubiak was as lenient.

Schaub said of Suh during a postgame news conference, “I really don’t have anything to say about that play or that person.”

Kubiak added: “I didn’t like it. I let the official know.”

Schaub since has gone on radio to say that he wouldn’t want Suh as a teammate.

“You don’t want a player like that,” Schaub told SportsRadio 610 AM in Houston. “The stuff that he stands for and the type of player he is, that’s not Houston Texan worthy. That’s not what we’re about.”

Suh, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft coming out of Nebraska, left the Lions’ locker room Thursday without talking to the media. The team is off until Tuesday.

Ray Anderson, executive vice president of football operations for the NFL, confirmed late last week that the league office would be taking a close look at Suh’s actions.

Many interpreted Anderson’s comments to suggest that the NFL was leaning toward another suspension, but it didn’t turn out that way.

NFL officials wanted to view the play from all angles possible before making a ruling. Suh wasn’t expected to get any breaks from the league, that’s for sure, not with his past offenses.

In the end, it was just too difficult to determine the exact intent in this case because of the awkward way Suh had fallen to the field before his leg kicked up.

But because it’s Ndamukong Suh, because of his rap sheet of on-field transgressions the past two years, there’s always a tendency to expect the worst of him.

He came into this league wanting to prove he was big and bad, which the Lions needed. He’s just gone too far at times and it’s backfired on him.

This time, there was no suspension, but his reputation took yet another negative hit. He should have no problem keeping his streak alive next year when they vote for the dirtiest player.

That’s the rap on him and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.