Allen Park — Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh got to know Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this summer, and although Suh said he’s “good people,” the two aren’t exactly friends.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a friend that’s a quarterback, especially one I see twice a year,” Suh said with a smile Wednesday.
Told Suh’s stance during a conference call, Rodgers sarcastically said Suh needs to be a little more open.
“I think he needs to expand his mind a little bit and kind of branch out,” Rodgers said. “Does that mean that he’s not buddies with Matt (Stafford) or Shaun (Hill) or Kellen (Moore)?”
All jokes aside, Suh and the Lions have a lot of respect for Rodgers, and know that if they want to improve to 4-1, they need to contain him and his array of weapons Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“Everybody has the same answer for this dude,” Lions cornerback Bill Bentley said of Rodgers. “He’s great. He’s elite. He reads his keys and makes great plays, gets the ball out fast and he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It’s all about trying to capitalize off one of his mistakes and trying to make the best of it.”
The Lions defense is 18th in the NFL in yards (378.8), but the group has made up for it by forcing 11 turnovers, tied for fifth.
Rodgers, though, doesn’t turn the ball over often. In three games, he has eight touchdowns and three interceptions. But, the Lions hope their defensive line can create enough pressure to knock him out of his element. Rodgers has been sacked 10 times.
“I think the biggest thing is always getting in his face,” Suh said. “And (forcing) him to kind of get off his spot and have to move around, which is also another dangerous thing with him because he’s athletic and can move around and can throw on the run.”
Rodgers has torched the Lions in his career. He’s 8-1 with 18 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 111.4 rating.
And to slow Rodgers, Detroit must account for a receiving trio that, along with Denver’s, is arguably the best in the league.
Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones switch off being Rodgers’ primary target from game to game, but so far, each is averaging at least five catches and 70 yards.
“He’s got a lot of trust in his receivers, and they make him right a lot of times,” Bentley said. “They’ve all been together for a couple years now, so it’s the bond they have and they take advantage of every opportunity given.”
Unfortunately for the Lions, top cornerback Chris Houston (hamstring) may not be available, which would put a lot more pressure on a secondary that has allowed 268 yards, 21st in the NFL.
Rodgers also has the benefit of a strong rushing attack, which is ninth (128 yards).
Rookie Eddie Lacy (concussion) will be back, and fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin (foot) could be in the backfield, too.
Lions safety Glover Quin, however, said the focus will be on Rodgers.
“I think you’re preparing for Aaron Rodgers, and if he hands the ball off you just come up and make the tackle,” Quin said. “I’m not saying you overlook their backs, but I don’t think you go into this game worrying about how to stop the running back as opposed to how to defend Aaron Rodgers.”
Suh and Rodgers worked at a Nike youth football camp this summer where Rodgers said he snuck up on Suh — “He’s usually doing that to me, not really sneaking though.”
Rodgers, however, said Suh hasn’t called him since, and maybe his explanation of not befriending quarterbacks explains why.
However close they are, Rodgers and Suh praised each other’s play Wednesday, but Suh didn’t know where he would rank Rodgers among quarterbacks.
“He’s definitely up there without question,” he said. “I haven’t (taken) the time to rate my quarterbacks at the top. I just look forward to taking them down.”
Rodgers said it would be wrong to say Suh (two sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble) has grown in 2013 because he’s been an elite player for a while.
“I think when you get to the level that he’s at, I think you start to call it consistency because you’re just doing the things that you’ve been doing at a high level for an extended period of time,” Rodgers said.