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Suh Must Learn To Control His Intensity

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Ndamukong Suh got fined again. He plays hard, but does he play too hard? Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.
Ndamukong Suh got fined again. He plays hard, but does he play too hard? Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.

You can’t fault Ndamukong Suh for being intense when he plays football. He doesn’t dog it on the field, take plays off Randy Moss-style or give up when his team is down. The man wants to win, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, that passion for winning has come at a cost — not just to Suh, but to the Lions as a whole.

A rundown of disciplinary actions that the NFL has taken against Suh since his rookie season in 2010:

  • 2010: $7,500 for roughing Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme in a preseason game.
  • 2010: $15,000 for violently pushing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to the turf.
  • 2011: $20,000 for slamming Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground after dislodging Dalton’s helmet on a hit.
  • 2011: Two-game suspension costing $165,000 in game checks after stomping on the arm of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving Day.
  • 2012: $30,000 for kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin area (in Suh’s defense, I never once thought there was any malicious intent on that play).

To this list we add the $100,000 fine for Suh’s unnecessary and dangerous clip of Vikings center John Sullivan on Sunday. The fine is said to be the largest fine ever dished out by the NFL without a suspension.

But what troubled me the most about Suh’s most recent action was the circumstances under which it happened. DeAndre Levy was on his way to returning an interception untouched to the end zone. Ten yards behind Levy — a linebacker — was Sullivan — an offensive lineman — who had about as good of a chance of catching Levy as one of the 70-year-old ushers in Ford Field. Suh’s inexplicable clip not only penalized the team, but it literally took points off the board.

Sunday’s hit was not the only one of Suh’s infamous hits that have ended up getting the entire team into trouble. The hit on Delhomme occurred on a third down play, resulting in a Browns first down. When Suh hit Cutler, the Lions held a 20-17 lead with nine minutes left in the game. Suh’s penalty put the Bears at Detroit’s 7-yard line—the Bears scored the winning touchdown on the next play. The stomp on Dietrich-Smith resulted in Suh’s ejection from the game and the loss of the Lions’ top threat up the middle for the rest of the game.

If Suh wants to show intensity on the field, he needs to find a more productive way to do it. He can fire his teammates up, run down a running back from behind, get the fans louder at a key point in the game, but pile-driving the quarterback is not the way to do it. Fifteen-yard penalties will kill any defense’s momentum, and gets opposing teams 15 yards closer to points. Suh has to learn that while the actions that have gotten him in trouble show his dedication to winning and pulling out all the stops, those plays hurt the Lions far more than they help.

You would think that after multiple fines and that two-game suspension that he would learn to better control himself on the field. He may not care at all about his reputation as a “dirty player,” but when his actions directly impact his wallet, and more importantly, his team, wouldn’t that be incentive enough to think twice before stomping on an offensive lineman’s arm or undercut a defenseless player?

Following the unnecessary roughness penalty against the Bengals in 2011, Suh stated that he would not change his style of play. While I admire his toughness and his will to win, Suh needs to consider his team’s best interest ahead of his own. Suh can keep the intensity, but when his actions take points away from his team, or puts the opposition inside the 10 late in the game, Suh is directly hurting the Lions’ chances of winning the game.