Fellow players still respect Suh
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The media labeled him as one of the NFL's dirtiest players in the wake of the Suh Stomp. Some Lions fans even turned on him.
Ndamukong Suh's reputation as a whole took a serious hit last year -- except, apparently, with his peers.
The NFL Network is in the process of counting down the league's top 100 players for 2012 and, in voting by the players themselves, Suh came in at No. 38.
That's 13 places higher than he was a year ago in the same rankings, even though his production, from most accounts, dropped rather significantly last season.
Suh, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2010 draft, went from 10 sacks and 66 combined tackles as a rookie to four sacks and 36 tackles in his second year.
But he also led defensive tackles in quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
Suh played two fewer games last season because of a suspension for his highly publicized foot stomp on Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith during a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game.
Suh finished with more personal fouls than sacks in 2011 and wasn't named to the Pro Bowl. He did make the team as a rookie.
In another player poll last year, he was voted the league's dirtiest player.
While all of that has downgraded him in the eyes of many, his fellow players obviously still believe that Year 1 Suh is the real Suh.
Carolina center Ryan Kalil, who ranked No. 99 in the NFL Network's polling, said of the controversial Lion: "People talk about he's a dirty player and he cheap-shots. But before he does any of that stuff, the guy plays his butt off."
In other words, before the whistle blows, Suh remains one of the NFL's top players, whether you like him or not.
It's just all that "stuff" after the whistle that has tarnished his image.
Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, by the way, confirmed earlier this week that he plans to move Suh around on the four-man front to try to create more problems for opponents' blocking schemes.
Suh has been practicing during the team's off-season workouts at both right and left defensive tackle.
Cunningham joked that the decision should please NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, a former NFL defensive tackle. Sapp had been critical of the Lions last year for making Suh too predictable -- and easier to block -- by always lining him up on the left side.
"Warren will be happy," Cunningham said, smiling. "I'm going to move him (Suh) all over the place now."
Cunningham said he's even showed Suh tape of how Sapp moved around to different spots on the line during his career.
If it works the way the Lions are hoping, Sapp will say, "I told you so," and Suh might jump up 13 more notches in next year's top-100.
The state of contract negotiations can change rapidly at times, but from all indications, defensive end Cliff Avril is not expected to participate in next week's three-day mandatory mini-camp.
Avril has until mid-July to sign the $10.6 million franchise tender for the 2012 season, but he is apparently still holding out hope of a long-term deal.
"We have the tender out and he is welcome to sign that anytime he wants," club president Tom Lewand told reporters Wednesday at the team's charity golf outing. "We continue discussions on whether we can convert that into something longer-term.
"But, in many ways, in terms of the tender, the ball is in his court."