Ndamukong Suh has said repeatedly that he is not a dirty player — he said so again Thursday after being ejected from the Detroit Lions’ game against the Green Bay Packers ... on national TV ... on Thanksgiving Day, no less.
Who are you gonna believe, Suh asks, him or your lyin’ eyes?
This time, Suh — voted the dirtiest player in the league by his peers in a Sporting News poll — is likely to be out of luck. After over $40,000 in fines and a bye-week trip to NFL headquarters with his coach to get clarification on what does and does not constitute legal play, the Lions’ defensive end repeatedly palmed the head of right guard Evan Dietrich-Smith against the turf Thursday as he tried to stand up, and then stomped him after a linemen’s scrum.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will no doubt consider Suh’s history as he ponders a suspension and/or fine. He may also listen to Suh’s postgame comments, which were remarkably devoid of remorse and at odds with the images of the moment (via CBS’ Will Brinson).
Suh said he was just trying to get up and “get out of the situation.” Somehow, “situations” seem irresistibly and repeatedly drawn to him. He apologized to his teammates, coaches and “true fans for allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game. What I did was remove myself from the situation in the best way I felt, me being held down in the situation I was in. And further, my intentions were not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself as you see, I’m walking away from the situation and with that I apologize to my teammates and my fans and my coaches for putting myself in the position to be misinterpreted and taken out of the game.”
Later, he said: “I understand, in this world, because of the type of player and type of person I am, all eyes are on me. So why would I do something to jeopardize myself and jeopardize my team first and foremost? So with that, that’s why — I don’t do bad things and I have no intention to hurt somebody. If I want to hurt him, I’m going to hit his quarterback. As I did throughout that game.
“I was on top of a guy being pulled down and trying to get up and get off of the ground, [that’s] why you see me pushing the helmet down, because I’m trying to remove myself from the situation. A lot of people are going to interpret it as ... or create their own story lines for seeing what they want to interpret it, but I know what I did and the Man Upstairs knows what I did.”
Suh is not without his sensitive, pensive side. He does frequent charitable work and, in an interview with the New York Times’ Judy Battista earlier this week, he expressed an intelligent awareness, and denial, over how he is perceived.
“It’s how Tom Brady is the pretty boy of the league,” Suh said. “I’m maybe the villain of the league. It used to boggle my mind: How do you get this reputation? I look at James Harrison’s situation last year. I’m him this year.”
His father, Michael, told Battista that he sees the talk about how Suh plays and adds, “I don’t want people thinking my son is this.”
Unfortunately, now they do.
And now, Suh’s coach, Jim Schwartz, has had a front-row seat to two of the NFL’s most embarrassing player stomps. He was defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans when Albert Haynesworth stomped the helmetless head of Andre Gurode, then of the Dallas Cowboys, in October 2006. Gurode needed 30 stitches to close his cuts; Haynesworth was given an unprecedented five-game suspension, was chewed out on the sidelines by then-coach Jeff Fisher — who apologized immediately afterward and promised team discipline if he felt the NFL’s was insufficient. (Watch here and see that even Haynesworth expressed regret.)
At the time of that suspension, Goodell, only a couple of months into the job, said: “There is absolutely no place in the game, or anywhere else, for the inexcusable action.” Fisher said: “This is an unprecedented suspension, and I also feel like his actions on the field were unprecedented.”
Just as this would appear to be a defining moment for Suh, it is Schwartz’s moment as a coach and Lions’ leader, a moment he let pass Thursday. Schwartz said Suh “said he was being held in the scrum and was trying to get out of the situation” but did admit that Suh can’t indulge in anger or retaliation.
“Regardless of what our intent is, we can’t put ourselves in that position,” Schwartz said. “We can’t leave any gray area and can’t give an official any reason to make that call.”
Well, no. Schwartz, who tried to spar with Jim Harbaugh after a postgame handshake, should do some thinking, too. He’s a good, smart coach — a Georgetown alum who interviewed for the Redskins’ job — but this Suh moment has building for a while and he bears some responsibility for that.
And now he also must coach up a team that’s reeling, with losses in four of the last six games, and preparing to face the Saints in New Orleans on Dec. 4 — most likely without Ndamukong Suh.
Mike Pereira, who was the NFL’s vice-president of officiating before joining Fox Sports, says Suh “isn’t dirty, he’s filthy” and suggests a suspension of multiple games is warranted. Do you think Suh should be suspended? If so, for how long? Is he a dirty player? Is it possible he’s misunderstood? If you were Roger Goodell, what would you say to Suh?