Ndamukong Suh’s offseason tour of redemption officially began Sunday on CBS’s pregame show, “The NFL Today.”
The Detroit Lions defensive tackle was the program’s special in-studio guest and was introduced by host James Brown as, “Lions All-Pro D tackle Ndamukong Suh..”
Nattily dressed in a suit-and-tie combination that vaguely resembled the Lions’ road uniform, without the black accents, Suh looked relaxed, even happy to be part of the show’s panel of Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher.
This is the same group that skewered Suh on Thanksgiving Day, after his now infamous stomp of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.
After Brown’s upbeat intro, Marino asked the first question. The Hall of Fame QB lobbed a softball about it being a good year since the Lions made the playoffs and asked Suh what Detroit needed to do to bring them up to the next level.
Suh began his answer by talking about the Lions’ great passing attack, moved on to how injuries decimated the running game and concluded that next season Detroit needs a better running game.
About the defense Suh said, “I want to keep our room together. Cliff Avril had an amazing year this year. He’s a guy that we definitely need to make sure we get back.
“Our front office has already started keeping all our coaches intact, which is a huge piece.”
Cowher was up next, and after complimenting coach Jim Schwartz on changing the Lions’ culture Cowher asked, “Does it bother you that in your style of play that you may be perceived as a dirty player, and is it going to change the way you play the game in the future?”
“I think the biggest thing is that we need to make sure we stay physical, and that’s what I pattern my game after,”Suh said. “Being physical, a guy that’s always attacking fierce and getting after the ball, but it’s always whistle to whistle and make sure it stays there.
“Coach Schwartz is a guy that emphasized not being the Detroit Lions that we were just laying down and make sure that we continue to fight.”
Brown then stepped in and reminded Suh that the panel all played or coached the game and understands the mindset of a defensive player.
He then went right after the stomping incident, telling Suh how insincere his apology came across, acknowledging that Suh has spoken with Dietrich-Smith since the incident and askingSuh, “what did you say and how do you feel now?”
“I had a great conversation with Evan Dietrich-Smith,”Suh said. “He’s a great guy. I got to go against him the last game of the regular season, had a chat with him, he’s a great guy.
“Obviously, I made a mistake. I definitely without a doubt understand that. I’m held to a high standard, and I love being held to a high standard.”
Suh continued on but started to get a little tongue-tied.
“I’m a man that I believe that can continue to withhold (probably meant uphold) that high standard,”he said. “At the same time, I want that because I want to be an example for young kids. I want to continue to try and be a good example to be able to be followed after and give.
“Everybody makes a mistake and just continue to learn from them and grow.”
Brown followed up by asking Suh if he could play within the rules and still be the dominate player that he desires to be.
Suh said that he could do so without a doubt. He then went on to praise parents and said he believes that being African and Jamaican allows him to have balance.
Suh cited education and football as each being equally important because his profession and education gave him the tools necessary to be a part of the pregame panel.
After Brown informed the viewing audience that Suh was named the best athlete in terms of his charitable work and donations, Brown gave the floor to Sharpe, who praised Suh for showing up since Sharpe and Esiason were among his harshest critics.
Sharpe’s question was direct.
“Is the guy that sells fast food that sells cars to America, is that the act and the guy that’s on the football field, is that the real deal?” he asked.
“Is that the real deal?”Suh repeated. “I think that I’m continuing to prove that I’m a fierce competitor. I’m going to do whatever in my power to help my team win.
“At this point in time, in having learned from this mistake, it has to be between whistle to whistle. That’s where I’m going to continue to strive and to perfect that.”
Esiason brought up Suh’s meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and wanted to know about their relationship and what they talked about.
Suh said that Goodell understands the “real Ndamukong Suh”as being a “hungry individual that wants to be the best.”Suh added that he has a great relationship with the commissioner that dates back to his draft day and understands he’s put Goodell in a tough position.
During the rest of the interview, Suh talked aboutmeeting Charles Barkley when he was 5 years-oldand howthat encounter still inspires him to always reach out to children.
Even though Suh would be part of the studio panel for the entire day, his interrogation pretty much ended there.
Once the questions started, Suh appeared nervous, as if he knew what he wanted to say, but wasn’t quite sure how to say it.