"If you want to call me dirty, call me dirty. But have valid points to call me dirty. I'm not a dirty player."
—Ndamukong Suh to SI, Aug. 18, 2011
During an interview this summer, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh argued against what he saw as misconceptions about his aggressive playing style. He's just a big man making plays, nothing more. "Pull up a game from last year where I hit a quarterback late or when I did something dirty," he said. "When I hear those things, you're just saying it to make a story. You don't have anything valid to back it up."
Any doubts that Suh's play tends toward the unsporting vanished on Thanksgiving, when he stomped Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith and drew a two-game suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell. Suh's exile began with Detroit's 31--17 loss to the Saints on Sunday night.
Suh hurt his reputation, his team—and his viability as a pitchman. Last week Omaha Steaks, a company he endorses, promised it would "closely monitor and evaluate the situation." This was followed by his car crash in Portland early Saturday morning, an incident best described as poorly timed.
For a player who had visited Goodell on Nov. 1 to discuss the rules, Suh's outburst was astonishing—as was the embarrassing performance of his teammates on Sunday. Detroit committed three unsportsmanlike fouls: Receiver Titus Young shoved New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins in the face; kick returner Stefan Logan flipped the ball at Saints linebacker Ramon Humber; and tight end Brandon Pettigrew shoved an official.
Suh is bright enough to repair his reputation, but it will take the kind of deep reflection that has been missing from most of his public comments. It may be too late for the Lions (7--5), who seem to be rapidly losing their bearing. If they began the season as darling sleepers, they are ending it in familiar ignominious fashion.
ANDREW WEBER/US PRESSWIRE (STOMP)
STEPPING IN IT Suh's Thanksgiving Day stomp of Green Bay's Dietrich-Smith (left) got him suspended for two games at a time when the Lions can ill afford his absence.
GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES (SUH AND REF)
[See caption above]