Sunday, December 4, 2011

In Defense of Ndamukong Suh

The Detriot Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh may be King-Kong like in the way he often swats offensive linemen aside like rag dolls, but he's not the monster he's made out to be.

At the moment he's the NFL's premier villain. Suh, who, incidentally, wasn't hurt when he crashed his 1970 Chevy into a tree in Portland, Oregon around 1a.m. Sunday morning,  is not only at the top of opposing fans' hate list. The rest of the NFL hates him too.  He was voted the league's dirtiest player--by the other players. Much of that reputation isn't based upon plays involving offensive linemen but on Suh being fined for illegal hits on quarterbacks Jake Delhomme, Jake Cutler and Andy Dalton.

At the moment Suh is serving a two-game suspension for a Thanksgiving Day transgression. In the loss to Green Bay, he was caught first dribbling the head of Packers' offensive lineman Evan Dietrich against the turf and then, moments later, using him as a doormat. It didn't help Suh that the video of this nasty encounter went viral.

In Suh's defense, he was just retaliating. There's a DVD going around that focuses just on Suh on every play in various games. Because he's such a force--the defensive rookie of the year last year--he's constantly double-teamed and singled out for special attention by blockers. In the Green Bay game, before he pounded Dietrich, he was the victim of some brutal, underhanded hits, including some punches, which officials either missed or didn't bother to penalize. On this DVD, featuring an array of Suh plays, including action in games against the Carolina Panthers and the 49ers, he absorbs a lot of punishment, some of it clearly illegal.

On Thanksgiving, Suh was in raging payback mode and simply got caught. That happens a lot, a player getting flagged for a penalty but the officials missing what an opponent did to ignite the illegal reaction. Offensive linemen  know Suh has a bad temper, so they goad him into overreactimg, hoping to get him penalized, ejected from the game or suspended. All of the above happened to Suh in the Green Bay game.

Don't get me wrong. Suh is no saint. Those crunching quarterback hits for which he was fined did cross the line. But in many instances, he was neither the bully nor the instigator but just a victim fighting back.