DETROIT – The Detroit Lions are in contention to make the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but they likely have to head into a key stretch of games without all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh is facing a possible two-game suspension following his actions on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers.
According to ESPN and Associated Press reports, Suh will be fined $25,000 by the Lions – which is the maximum allowable fine under the new CBA for a player being ejected from a game. If or when Suh is suspended, the Lions would have to pay a $50,000 fine because team members will have been fined more than $100,000 for the season.
“I really have to fault the Detroit organization,” NBC Sunday Night Football analyst and Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy said on Monday’s Dan Patrick radio show. “I think they really could have stopped this. I think they could have made a preemptive strike and said, “Hey, we’ve got to get this player under control.’”
WATCH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE OF THE SUH SCANDAL:
The precedent for stomping and kicking incidents was set in Oct. 2006 when then-Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games for intentionally stepping on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode. Haynesworth not only stepped on Gurode’s head, but he had also taken off his helmet and missed on his first attempt to step on him.
Suh was ejected during the third quarter of Thursday’s 27-15 loss, the Lions’ eighth consecutive Thanksgiving Day loss. On third-and-goal and trailing 7-0, the Lions had appeared to have held Green Bay to a field goal attempt after an incomplete pass.
After the play, Suh got tangled up with Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Both players went to ground, and after grabbing Smith’s head and bouncing it off of the ground three times, Suh stomped on Smith’s arm as they were being separated.
After the game, Suh — who has been hit with nine personal foul penalties and has been fined a total of $42,500 in his first two seasons – defiantly blamed the referees and the media for being ejected. He also insisted that he did nothing wrong.
“First and foremost, I’m only going to apologize to my teammates, my coaches, and my true fans for allowing the refs to have an opportunity to take me out of this game,” Suh said. “What I did was remove myself from the situation in the best way I felt and me being held down in the situation that I was in and for that, my intentions were not to kick anybody, as I did not, removing myself.”
Suh insisted that he did not kick Smith, insisting that he was trying to extricate himself from the scrum. The video on Fox and the numerous still photos said otherwise.
“You guys (the media) are going to create your own storyline, people are going to have their own opinions — that’s fine,” he said. “The only people that I really care about are my teammates, my true fans, and my coaches and their opinions and that’s where it lies. And honestly, the most important person in this whole thing that I have to deal with is the man upstairs.”
On Friday, the team issued a statement regarding the incident that read in part: “The on-field conduct exhibited by Ndamukong Suh that led to his ejection from yesterday’s game was unacceptable and failed to meet the high level of sportsmanship we expect from our players.
“Ndamukong has made many positive contributions to the Lions on and off the field. We expect his behavior going forward to consistently reflect that high standard of professionalism.”
That same day, Suh backtracked from his post-game rant and posted an apology on his Facebook page. Neither Smith, nor the Packers, were mentioned.
“In the past few hours, I have had time to reflect on yesterday’s game and I want to sincerely apologize for letting my teammates down, the organization, and especially to my fans who look to me for positive inspiration. Playing professional sports is not a game. It is a profession with great responsibility, and where performance on and off the field should never be compromised. My reaction on Thursday was unacceptable. I made a mistake, and have learned from it.”
Suh’s edgy play and personal foul penalties have earned him the reputation of being dirty around the NFL. Suh even took time out earlier this month to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York to discuss what he could do to avoid being heavily penalized.
One of his college teammates has seen this side of Suh for years and worries that Suh has lost control.
“Somebody needs to get him under control, because he’s trying to hurt people,” New York Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson told the New York Post on Friday. Slauson was a teammate of Suh at the University of Nebraska from 2005-2008. “It’s one thing to be an incredibly physical player and a tenacious player, but it’s another thing to set out to end that guy’s career.”
“I don’t know what’s going on with him, but something isn’t right. I mean, they’ve fined him out the (butt), but he still doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I don’t know what they’re going to have to do, but something has to be done.”
The league will likely rule on any sanctions against Suh on Tuesday, but his suspension could not come at a worse time for Detroit. The Lions (7-4) have lost four of their last six, are tied for the final NFC playoff spot, and will face the Saints in New Orleans this Sunday night on NBC.
“He’s a great player; he plays with high energy,” Dungy said. “But (the Lions) need to do a better job of channeling it in the right direction. I think that starts with the coaching staff and the organization.”