Don’t Expect Suh To Tone It Down

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - September 07, 2011
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Violence plays an important role in our imagination and entertainment. Gruesome images wake us from our restful sleep, create thrilling moments of disgust in horror classics and make up the breadth of NFL promotions.

Ed Sabol reached the Hall of Fame chronicling the fast, the famous and the fierce, mostly the fierce. Nastiness is an NFL byproduct. The greatest excelled at it. Huff, Lambert, Tatum, Nitschke, Jones, Greene are known for their aggression. Dick Butkus was a great player violence turned him into a legend.

Now its Suh’s turn.

Ndamukong Suh is the most disruptive lineman since Reggie White and perhaps the nastiest since Gino Marchetti practiced willful vengeance on opposing ball carriers in the 1950s and ‘60s. If you want to know just how ornery Marchetti was, read Art Donovan’s Fatso. In fact, just read the book for its own sake. It’s both hilarious and frightening.

Like those who caused havoc before him, Suh toes the not always visible line between aggression and criminal behavior. As a then 25-year-old, Sam Huff told Time magazine, “We try to hurt everybody. We hit each other as hard as we can. This is a man’s game.” Or in the CBS documentary, The Violent World of Sam Huff, the linebacker said, “There is no place for nice guys.”

But Suh is a nice guy off the field, anyway. On the field things change quickly.

Hall of Fame tackle Dan Dierdoff said Suh is in danger of developing a reputation that will make him a target of officials. Too late. A year ago his twohand shove to the back of a scrambling Jay Cutler was mistakenly ruled a forearm to the head. For the false transgression, which was clear on replay, he was fined $15,000. Cutler left the pocket and got abused. A YouTube commentator had it correct. If Suh had done as the official believed, Cutler would have been decapitated. Instead, he got up quickly to once again stare into the face of the beast. Credit Cutler for bravery and a bit of acting. Earlier in that season, Suh was hit with a $7,500 penalty for planting Jake Delhomme in a manner he is not accustomed to. He drew a flag for pulling Marion Barber down by the hair in a game against Dallas. The take down was ruled a horse collar tackle. It was another bad call. His latest was $20,000 slap on his $68 million wrists this preseason for slamming Andy Dalton to the ground after a pass was thrown.

Such aggression will no doubt extend drives during the season and make Suh a slightly less wealthy man, but coach Jim Schwartz isn’t going to ask him to change. Chuck Noll didn’t ask Jack Lambert to tone it down and neither will Schwartz. Why should he? His second-year tackle is just doing what he was designed to do.

While still a student at Nebraska, Suh, whose first name means House of Spears, was measured by the folks at Sports Science for ESPN. The results were scary. His reaction time off the ball was found to be a mere .26 seconds after the go signal was given. It was the fastest they have ever measured. Further testing found that he reached a top speed of 13.5 mph in 1.3 seconds at the six-yard mark. Suh finally crashed into the crash test dummy with a measured 3,200 pounds of force. It was another all-time best. In this case, Mass x Acceleration = Fear.

Suh channeled Huff when he said he wants to hit his opponents as hard as he can. Physics and video tape show that’s pretty darn hard. And with a line that is expected to go eight deep, a refreshed Suh is an even more dangerous Suh. That’s good for the Lions and the NFL, bad news for the rest of the NFC Central.

Sure, he’ll get flagged, fined and draw the ire of some. But he sells tickets. In the end, that’s all the league, and the team that wears Honolulu Blue, care about.

And really, what do we want, a non-aggressive defensive lineman?

We’ve already got Albert Haynesworth. Isn’t that enough?

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