Suh clearly hasn’t learned his lesson
He didn’t get it after repeated NFL fines.
He didn’t get it after a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
He didn’t even get it after being ejected Thursday for stomping a rival player.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh proclaimed his innocence after a display that further cemented his reputation as the league’s dirtiest young player. Suh became entangled with Green Bay Packers right guard Evan Dietrich Smith on a key third-down play. Suh violently pushed down three times on Dietrich-Smith’s helmet while rising to his feet.
Suh then made the mistake that has earned him a spot alongside Albert Haynesworth in NFL ignominy: Suh cleated Dietrich-Smith on his exposed right arm, drawing a slew of flags and immediate disqualification.
Suh’s teammates unraveled shortly thereafter in a 27-15 home loss.
Rather than having to settle for a short field-goal attempt early in the third quarter, the Packers were given a first down and scored to take a 14-0 lead. The Packers immediately converted a Matthew Stafford interception — the second of three in the game — into a 65-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver James Jones.
The Lions had mounted comebacks from deficits of 17 or more points three times earlier this season. That wasn’t going to happen against an opponent as talented as the Packers (11-0).
Suh wasn’t allowed to stay on the Ford Field sideline to watch his club’s implosion. He did have a chance to watch the replay of the Dietrich-Smith scrum.
Suh didn’t see what the rest of the NFL did.
“I was on top of a guy getting pulled down and trying to get up off the ground,” Suh said during a brief news conference. “That’s why you see me pushing his helmet down. I’m trying to remove myself from the situation. As I’m getting up, I’m getting pushed.
“With that, a lot of people are going to create their own storylines for seeing how they want to interpret it. But I know what I did, and the man upstairs knows what I did.”
So does the man upstairs at NFL headquarters. And it’s hard to imagine Goodell understanding or forgiving.
At Suh’s request, he met with Goodell earlier this month to discuss the issue of dirty play that was overshadowing all of his positive on-field accomplishments.
Suh began getting fined for controversial hits on quarterbacks in 2010 en route to earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. He drew another fine in the preseason. Then, earlier this season, Atlanta Falcons players claimed Suh mocked quarterback Matt Ryan when he was injured.
Those incidents are ticky-tacky compared to what Suh did Thursday on a national stage during such an important moment for his franchise.
The Lions (7-4) hoped to prove they belong in the same class as standout teams like the Packers. Civic pride was a pregame rallying cry, especially because Detroit has taken such a beating during a decade of horrific Thanksgiving Day performances that echoed the squad’s overall struggles.
Instead, Suh put up more of a fight against Dietrich-Smith than his teammates did after the ejection.
The injury-plagued Lions committed eight penalties for 75 yards even before Suh was tossed. Three more were committed afterward.
Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy believes the Lions are being unfairly targeted by game officials. He also said opponents are taking cheap shots on Suh “under those piles” that aren’t being called.
“Everybody wants (to) say it’s a dirty defense, we’re evil and bulls***,” Levy said. “I think it kind of does play subconsciously in the (officials’) minds with those calls. A lot of things that happen are in retaliation, but we’re out there so it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s the Lions. Throw the flag on them.’ ”
Levy did admit, however, the Lions did themselves no favors Thursday.
“We played dumb football today,” he said.
None dumber than Suh.
He left the game credited with one tackle and no quarterback hurries even though Suh claimed he hit Rodgers “throughout the game.” Even if Suh felt he was wronged by the game officials — “I’m on one leg and trying to get up at the same time I’m being pushed by his teammates,” he said. “How am I supposed to do anything else?”
Being indignant rather than repentant in his postgame comments only made matters worse.
What will it take for Suh to get it? A one-game suspension is where Goodell should start. Having to miss Detroit’s next contest against fellow NFC playoff contender New Orleans on Dec. 4 would send a message that can’t be ignored.
Dietrich-Smith, a Packers reserve forced into action because of a first-half injury to Josh Sitton, was asked whether it was difficult not to retaliate after getting stomped. Dietrich-Smith has never made an NFL start, but he showed Lombardi-like wisdom with his response.
“It’s real easy,” Dietrich-Smith said. “You get a letter from the NFL commissioner when you sit there and retaliate. It’s never a good deal.”
Suh needs to learn that the hard way.