Lions rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is exactly what the Lions long have craved — a dominant defensive player who creates havoc. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Allen Park -- No need to get angry and organize a march on the NFL offices. No need to waste curse words you might need for the next game.
Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh is gaining a reputation for fearsome hitting, and that brings scrutiny, like the $15,000 fine he just received. This is part of the deal. If you play with a nasty edge — as great players do — you stray into blurred areas, and it's not necessarily a bad thing.
The tackle is exactly what the Lions long have craved — a dominant defensive player who creates havoc. Suh may not be happy with the fine, but I have a feeling he doesn't mind if it adds to his image. He was punished for hitting Bears quarterback Jay Cutler with a forearm flourish to the back as Cutler scrambled last weekend.
Muster the outrage if you wish, but I'm not doing it. First of all, $15,000 to Suh is like $15 to you. As for the principle, well, Suh did appear to throw the forearm with excessive force, a borderline call. Even though he didn't hit Cutler's head, he hit a nerve in a league eager to crack down.
The NFL has a major injury problem, and it's right to address the issue. It also has a major hypocrisy problem, touting violent collisions as long as they're not too violent.
To his credit, Suh reacted calmly to the news, although he said he'd appeal. Beyond that, he wouldn't say much, just that he'll play as hard as ever. This was his fourth personal foul penalty and second fine. The first, for $7,500, came in a preseason game against the Browns, when he slammed Jake Delhomme to the turf with unnecessary vigor.
There is a line, and Suh is still searching for it. I honestly hope he doesn't back off. The Lions fervently hope he doesn't.
Lions' poster child
But they also should hope Suh subtly adjusts, so he doesn't become a target, like Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Suh is smart enough and polished enough to recognize that.
"Certain people get fined — those that are known as hard hitters and those who've got the top names are the ones that are really targeted," Lions safety Louis Delmas said. "I think it should be both ways, and you should fine an offensive player for cut-blocking. Regardless of this, Ndamukong Suh is gonna do what he does, and he's doing a good job at it."
Suh leads rookies and all defensive tackles with eight sacks, and has met the huge expectations as the No. 2 overall pick. His fine was less than many levied around the league, and with a pending labor dispute, the union isn't pleased the punishments have flowed so freely.
So it's not like Suh is being picked on. I asked him if he wanted to be known as a feared player, and he shrugged.
"I want to be known as a player that plays hard at all times and is aggressive and gets after the ball and tries to help his team win," Suh said. "My mentality right now is, I owe it to my teammates and fans and former players and my coaches to play as hard as I can."
If the 2-10 Lions ever, ever are to turn this mess around and deliver "great" things, as Jim Schwartz insists, naturally it will start with the quarterback. But as Matthew Stafford resumes throwing to see if his shoulder is healthy for another game or two, Suh has become the symbol of what the Lions must be.
Their defensive line is tough and talented, although it took a blow with the loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch, who underwent season-ending neck surgery. The staggering hits keep coming for the Lions, but as long as they have guys like Suh, Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Cliff Avril along their line, they have something to build upon.
Nice … and nasty
The most important piece in the franchise is Stafford. But the biggest, most-marketable piece is Suh, and he doesn't seem like the type to be fazed by the attention. In fact, he embraces it, with the right touch of humility.
Suh has TV commercials, and this week, spent the day at ESPN doing interviews while wearing a Michael Jackson-like sequined glove. It was a charitable endeavor, with proceeds for the autographed glove going to the Detroit Medical Center.
Good move, wise move. In football, it is possible to be nice and nasty, with good and bad intentions at the same time.
Suh possesses amazing ability and an edge, and he needs to keep it.
"I don't know what to tell him (on the Cutler hit)," Schwartz said. "The quarterback wasn't going down. He was a runner. (Suh) is trying to make as much contact as he can to force the ball out."
As Suh's stature grows, so will his reputation. That presents some challenges, from the rulebook and double-teaming lines. It's nothing to get riled about. The Lions have their share of problems, but Suh's penchant for clobbering quarterbacks certainly isn't one of them.