Ndamukong Suh has arrived in Detroit for the voluntary offseason programs and held his first press conference since before week 16 of last season. It was a long period of quiet for one of the NFL’s most dominant players on either side of the ball and in typical Suh fashion, there was controversy.
No matter what Suh does, his time as a Detroit Lions player has never gone smoothly. While trying to declare his devotion to the team and the city Suh stirred up a hornet’s nest by claiming he chose to be selected by the Lions as the second overall pick of the 2010 draft. General manager Martin Mayhew has vehemently claimed this entire offseason that Suh was the player they wanted with that pick and in general it has turned out well for the Lions as Suh has become the all-pro they imagined he would be when they chose him.
The assumption is that players don’t have a choice in where they are selected in the draft and the teams make the choice with no influence by the players at all. That’s obviously not true as we saw with John Elway saying he would play baseball rather than play for the Indianapolis Colts and found himself quickly traded to the Denver Broncos. Other players have made similar moves including but not limited to Eli Manning and Bo Jackson by either forcing trades or choosing not to play. Suh just hinted that he had a choice in where he was going and what was a very positive press conference instead became a national story.
Why is it that everything Suh says is so heavily scrutinized? He speaks well and usually with sharp intellect. His resume unfortunately includes stomping on a Green Bay Packers lineman after a play and many heavy hits on quarterbacks. Former coach Jim Schwartz encouraged his players to play hard to the very end of the whistle blow and so the team in general has been harnessed with a reputation of being dirty. Suh and his linemate Nick Fairley have taken more than their fair share of personal fouls that may or may not have been deserved but have effected the Lions success either way. If you watch him regularly though it’s obvious that Suh is not a dirty player, just a hard hitter that plays with great desire and passion. While historically popular and famous heavy hitters like Dick Butkus and Jack Lambert are praised for their aggressive and hard hitting style, the NFL has changed so dramatically to a more politically correct world and the concern over concussions and the physical well being of the players it’s put an unfortunate spotlight on old school players like Suh. Honestly, there aren’t many players left like Suh and for that reason he could be considered a very special player. Instead, he is beleaguered by questions of his intent and his supposed vicious nature.
All Suh was trying to do was declare his devotion to the Lions and his commitment to the team and the attempt to bring a championship to one of the weakest franchises in the NFL. Detroit has only won one playoff game in the super bowl era and hasn’t finished atop of NFC North since it formed. They’ve not only been bad, they’ve been almost unwatchable. Instead Detroiters have a passion for this team unlike any other team in the league. They still sell out every game and live, breathe and eat the Lions. Suh is all in for the Lions and their fans and has been from the start and should be praised for the declaration of devotion. He will sign an extension and be a part of this organization for many years to come. As fans, Detroiters need to embrace that one of the best players in the league is happy to be here rather than trying to read something more into every word that comes out of his mouth.