Lions' Ndamukong Suh has Packers' respectDetroit’s Ndamukong Suh argues with Terry McAulay after Suh was ejected from the game against Green Bay last Thanksgiving.
Detroit's defensive end can bring it, players say
By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel Nov. 13, 2012
Green Bay - He's not going to change. Players realize this. Ndamukong Suh will be himself, ready or not.
The latest greatest hit came at Chicago on Oct. 22.
Suh - 6 feet 4 inches and 307 pounds of untamed aggression - tossed Chicago Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis aside, grabbed quarterback Jay Cutler's hand with his own left paw and pinned his right arm between the quarterback's head and shoulder. Clutching Cutler in a WWE-style vise, Suh slammed him to the ground.
Again, a nationally televised audience was treated to the most enigmatic defensive player in the game.
"I thought it was nasty. I didn't think there was anything dirty about it," Green Bay Packers guard-turned-tackle T.J. Lang said. "When those guys get to the quarterback, they want to hit you and they want to hit you hard. I thought it was just a good, clean, hard hit. He didn't do anything illegal. So that's something you have to watch. Him, especially.
"When he gets to the quarterback, he's going to try to make them pay."
No player blurs the line of respect and resentment across the league like Detroit's Suh. In a midseason Sporting News poll, Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL by his peers. In a Forbes poll of fans, Suh was voted the most disliked player in the league. And this season, one anonymous general manager told Pro Football Weekly that Suh belongs on the "All-Hype Team."
Yet there's also no defensive tackle in the game with his cannonball explosion, his finishing punch. In three seasons, Suh has 17 1/2 sacks and 88 solo tackles. On Sunday, the 2010 second overall pick out of Nebraska will be a game-long focus for the Packers' reconfigured offensive line.
So which is it - dirty, overhyped, dominant, respected? All the above? This is an ever-evolving debate that'll probably continue throughout Suh's career. Controversy is never too far.
Between the lines, Suh has Green Bay's respect. It's not all hype, they say. Suh brings it. On the field, right guard Josh Sitton says the third-year pro is "all-business."
"It's legit," Sitton said. "He's a good football player. People have been saying he's slumping or had a sophomore slump last year. But it's all media."
Lang agreed, saying Suh has "everybody's attention" throughout a game. Linemen, tight ends, running backs, everyone chips in to slow him down. Offenses try placing roadblocks wherever possible. Lang said he fully respects Suh's game, adding "You know when you play him, it's going to be a 60-minute fight."
Yet, there are doubters. Criticism directed at Suh might not be "all media" as Sitton suggests. And some within league circles disagree with Lang's 60-minute assessment. One NFC scout in particular said Suh takes plays off. Maybe the player that broke onto the scene in 2010 with 10 sacks and subsequent endorsements with Chrysler, Subway and Dick's Sporting Goods isn't a rare, transcendent force of nature.
Initial buzz has receded.
The NFC scout explained that select "dominant" players like Suh never learn what it takes to play at the highest level "play in and play out."
"He is one example of a football culture that coddles elite players and does not force them to push themselves for fear that the player will tune you out," the scout said. "We complain at this level that finding leaders is a difficult task, but leadership is, as Eddie Robinson once said, fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you. For a player like Ray Lewis, he demands so much of himself and is willing to push himself, that when he confronts a teammate over work ethic, the player has no choice but to respect him.
"Players like Suh do not demand excellence of themselves because they believe they can be excellent just by walking on the field. These players will underachieve by comparison to expectations."
That might be true. But it's not his actual play that generates headlines. His first two seasons, Suh racked up $42,500 in fines. The breaking point, of course, was on Thanksgiving last year.
In Green Bay's 27-15 win last season, Suh shoved Evan Dietrich-Smith's head into the Ford Field turf multiple times and stomped on the guard's arm. More than the act itself, Packers players were most upset with how Suh handled it.
After being ejected, Suh refused to take responsibility. The second-year defensive tackle said he was "held down" by Dietrich-Smith and that he pushed his leg down to "get myself out of the situation" - an explanation Lang labeled "bull(expletive)."
Tight end Andrew Quarless said Suh was lucky that he wasn't on the field.
"I think probably where most people don't like him is from the way he plays - the personal fouls, the kicking people and last year having a hard time owning up to it," Lang said. "I think he definitely has some character issues. But I think he's a good player, a hardworking guy."
Naturally, Suh has developed a reputation for being dirty, for habitual line-stepping. Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said controversy follows Suh "because his name's Ndamukong Suh. . . . It makes me laugh sometimes."
True, anything Suh does the rest of his career will be analyzed through a hypercritical lens. The Bears players who witnessed the Cutler smack-down last month agree the hit was clean. Cutler himself didn't have a problem with it, and Suh was not fined.
With Chicago's linemen, there's a cautious bite of the tongue.
"He's just a competitor," Bears guard Chilo Rachal said. "He's just a nasty finisher. That's in his gene line. That's just how he plays football - he's nasty."
And that's the consensus. One point everyone can agree on is that Suh plays "nasty," angry. This demeanor is the root of the fines, the stomp, the hype, whatever might come next. But do players respect or resent this edgy style?
Rachal smiles and doesn't give a clear-cut answer.
"He's just a nasty guy," he said. "He's a finisher. It is what it is."http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/ ... 27641.html