Necessary Roughness

-By Chris Lehman

Say what you want, but Detroit Lions’ defensive tackle, Ndomukong Suh, is not a dirty player. He simply does his job very, very well.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a dominant interior defensive lineman in the game, and we finally get to witness one and the league doesn’t know how to handle it. In an era where quarterbacks are prioritized, there’s no love for those players whose sole purpose is to take them down. 

What’s the point of NFL players going through all the training and lifting that they do if they get penalized and fined for using that strength? In college, Suh was regarded as the most physically dominant player in the nation. Once he went pro, this was still the case as he continued to throw offensive lineman out of the way to crush opposing quarterbacks. The NFL, however, is not okay with that.

Somewhere in the NFL rulebook, or perhaps an unwritten rule, it is stated that if your last name is “Suh,” you’re not allowed to use your strength to tackle someone. Ray Lewis and the other hard-hitting linebackers and safeties are free to spear receivers in the gut with their heads, with the intention of inflicting as much pain as possible. But when Suh gets a quarterback to the ground, by any means necessary, it’s not allowed. He’s not trying to hurt anyone. His whole life, he’s been told one thing: Get to the guy trying to throw the ball before he throws it, and get him to the ground.

While I can’t defend stomping on someone while they are on the ground, because that is blatantly a penalty, there was more to the play than people see. I’m not saying that Evan Dietrich-Smith, the backup center for the Packers, also known as Suh’s most recent victim deserved what happened, but he did start it. After successfully blocking Suh, he attempted to push Suh’s torso back over his own legs to contort his body in a way it’s not supposed to go. Suh didn’t appreciate that and retaliated. I’ll repeat, I’m not saying it was okay for him to retaliate in this manner, but simply showing why he did. In this case, his $25,000 fine and two-game suspension is a fair penalty.

The first fine that shouldn’t have happened is ridiculous. When the Lions met the Bears, Suh tackled quarterback Jay Cutler and got penalized and fined $15,000 for “punching” Cutler in the back of the head. In actuality, he PUSHED him in the BACK. This is a case where Suh was penalized for simply overpowering the other players.

Next, Suh was fined $20,000 for his sack on rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. But what was the penalty for? Roughing the passer. For finishing a tackle? Suh reaches Dalton before he releases the ball. So what’s his job? Take Dalton to the ground, get the sack. It’s not his responsibility to figure out whether or not the quarterback somehow threw the ball after he made contact. So by Suh finishing the tackle, he is penalized and fined. A very similar situation happened against the Browns’ quarterback, Jake Delhomme for a $7,500 fine. While there’s no doubt that it was a facemask penalty, that’s where it should have stopped. Once again he is fined for finishing a tackle. What is he supposed to do? Should he hit the quarterback and then let him go regardless of if he got him to the ground or not? I seem to recall a time where Giants’ defender Mathias Kiwanuka made contact with Vince Young in the backfield and let him go because he was fined the week before for a roughing the passer call where he actually finished the tackle. Vince Young would go on to scramble for nineteen yards and lead a game-tying touchdown drive.

Another incident that people bring up in their arguments that he is dirty was when he pushed a Patriots player and threw a punch. That’s all people want to see in this situation. What they don’t mention is that that player, Logan Mankins, had his teammate by his facemask and was twisting his head and attempting to take him to the ground. This was after the play had ended. Suh saw this and came over and pushed Mankins off of his teammate. Somehow, while Mankins gets the penalty, his name stays out of the conversation and Suh is called a dirty player. I’ve played sports my whole life and have been told that your team is your family, and you protect and stand up for them. So if being a good teammate makes you a dirty player, then by all means call him dirty.

Suh is a very physical player. He’s very fast for his size and has a lot of explosive power. He consistently overwhelms offensive linemen and has clear shots on opposing quarterbacks and he finishes the play. Yes, he messed up with the stomping incident, but one mistake does not make you a dirty player.

Next we’ll hear that Adrian Peterson is a dirty player because he plows through defenders who try to tackle him.

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2 comments

  1. Nice counterpoints to the usual ESPN slant. I do think, however, the jury is still out and time will tell. I’m glad you addressed the stomping issue – I clearly think that was ugly, even if it was in retaliation. The Cutler incident was no incident at all, agreed. As for the New England, the problem I have with Suh’s reaction was that his teammate was already engaged. Yes, you need to protect your team, but take a page from the NHL – if two guys go at it, the rest let them finish and don’t jump in. Double-teaming on an opponent is not exactly good, hard-nosed football. Finally, I absolutely agree the offensive skill positions (starting with QB) are way too coddled in today’s game.

    • Yeah, w/ the patriots one, i never support the decision of throwing a punch, but his intentions were to protect his team. W/ hockey, its different because there’s pretty much a whole side part of hockey which is normal to happen. like its incorporated in the video games and everything. They are allowed to fight like that and then they get their time in the penalty box (im not extremely familiar w/ hockey, but i think that’s how it works)

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