Ndamukong Suh was a no show at the Detroit Lions voluntary conditioning program that began yesterday. Suh has been in exemplary shape each of his four seasons with the Lions and there is no reason to believe that this will have a negative impact on his performance for 2014, but is he sending another message?
The Lions are in a win or bust mode. General manager Martin Mayhew has built this team and based all of his decisions personnel and staff wise on the premise that the Lions are ready to win and need to win and have the potential to go all the way. The gauntlet has been thrown down. So is Suh disrupting this plan by not showing up for a voluntary program? No, he’s not.
The players on the Lions voted Suh a captain last year for the first time in his career. His performance on the field last season reflected a maturity that the team and former coach Jim Schwartz had tried to instill on Suh during his first three seasons. While Suh was still a dominant and violent force, he occasionally showed restraint in finishing plays, not slamming opponents into the ground when given the opportunity to complete the tackle without injury to the other player. Suh is and will be in great shape. There is no doubt about that, whether out of self-pride, physical discipline or even due to greed since this is a potential contract year for Suh. I still expect him to sign an extension to remain with the Lions, but, he certainly won’t waste his other opportunities by showing up out of shape. He’s too smart for that.
Is it significant that wide receiver Calvin Johnson showed up and Suh did not? No, it isn’t. Johnson is coming off an injury. Any sort of NFL allowed treatment and conditioning he can get with the Lions and their medical staff is a bonus for Johnson. Does Suh need to get to know coach Jim Caldwell and the new staff? No, he doesn’t. Suh is a very intelligent player that will easily be able to grasp any scheme put in front of him and the only thing they really need to know about him they can see on tape.
Suh will be fine, and if the Lions have any shortcomings that cost them the playoffs this year, Suh will not be one of them. He didn’t show up for a voluntary program. He will show up when it comes to game time and a player of the caliber of Suh should be, to some extent, allowed to decide how to best prepare himself for the most important season of his career.