Football can be a brutal game.  We expect the violence, and most of the time we even appreciate it.   But even with football there is a line that should never be crossed.  The Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh, a player whose viciousness I’ve enjoyed from time to time, clearly crossed that line on Thanksgiving.

Ndamukong Suh, while getting up from a tackle, needlessly shoved the head of Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith into the turf, and then for good measure kick-stomped his arm.   Watching the various replays, suggests that Suh did the deed on purpose hoping no one would see.
Thankfully, the official and the cameras saw it and Suh was ejected from the game.   Still, Suh tried to justify his actions.

Ndamukong Suh

“A lot of people are going to interpret it as, or create their own storylines for seeing what they want to interpret, but I know what I did, and the man upstairs knows what I did.   I understand in this world because of the type of player and the type of person I am, all eyes are on me. So why would I do something to jeopardize myself and jeopardize my team first and foremost?”

Not a hint of contrition.  No sense of self-reflection.   Ironically, I would feel better about all of this if he sounded as wild and crazy as his actions.  But Suh most times with his helmet off is articulate, insightful and engaging, which makes his behavior even more mystifying.

Is Suh an accomplished player? Is he one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL?  Yes he is.  He was last season’s defensive rookie of the year, and was named first team All-Pro.   Suh, has earned the accolades, but he has also earned increasing doubts about his character.

Suh has a history.   A body of work – filled with cheap shots – that he should be ashamed of.   Earlier this year he met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the fines he’s accumulated and his rough play.  It was a meeting that Suh asked for.  What was said is not known, but surely the commissioner conveyed that further questionable play on Suh’s part would be dealt with severely.   Suh’s Thanksgiving meltdown to my eyes far exceeded questionable.

A few years ago, many of us witnessed a psychotic episode similar to this when Tennessee Titans’ defensive tackle Albert  Haynesworth stomped on the face of one of his opponents.  It was one of the worst acts of stupidity and recklessness ever seen in sports.

Haynesworth was suspended, but he would later come back to resurrect his reputation and have several Pro Bowl seasons.  He would subsequently earn record millions in free agency when he signed with the Washington Redskins.

Albert Haynesworth

But it didn’t take long for Haynesworth to demonstrate that his innate character flaws made it nearly impossible for him to do the right things – like getting in shape, being a good teammate and justifying the money he was being paid.  Eventually the Redskins let him go.  Haynesworth went to New England this season, which also quickly parted ways with him.   Haynesworth is now playing out his career in Tampa Bay, a shell of the player he once was.  I doubt he will be in the NFL much longer.

Right now it looks like Ndamukong Suh may be headed down Haynesworth’s highway to nowhere.   Like Haynesworth, he is big and strong but perhaps irrational and delusional.  But before we confirm a diagnosis, Suh deserves a huge fine and a meaningful suspension and another chance at redemption.

Perhaps a stern rebuke from the commissioner and the football world will wake him up and ultimately save a career that is only two seasons old, but now is seemingly spiraling out of control.


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