July 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Jim Caldwell optimistic Ndamukong Suh will stay with Lions

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Allen Park As the Lions prepare for training camp Monday, star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suhs future in Detroit remains in doubt.

But the team is confident Suhs contract negotiations wont be a distraction as it prepares for the season, and coach Jim Caldwell remains optimistic that the Lions can keep Suh long term.

Absolutely, he said Sunday. Im always optimistic and I think without question (Lions management and Suhs agent) are working at it. And I think something will be done at the appropriate time.

The most appropriate time for the team to extend Suhs contract was before free agency began in March. Suh counts $22.4 million on the salary cap this season, and a new contract wouldve given the Lions more room to sign free agents.

But for Suh, theres no rush. Hes 27 and in the prime of his career, so this is his best chance to receive a maximum contract, one that could be close to $100 million in total compensation.

Suhs a businessman, as we all know, and when things get done, they get done, linebacker Stephen Tulloch said.

Tulloch and center Dominic Raiola agreed that Suhs situation wont be a distraction for the team because of the dedication hes shown on the field during his first four seasons.

I think the media worries about it more than we do, Tulloch said. I know when 90 gets here, hes going to work. Thats the one guy, since Ive been in the league, that I never have to worry about when it comes to work. All the outside stuff that goes on, we dont have to pay attention to that.

Lions players and coaches may not worry about the contract negotiations, but until a new deal is done or negotiations come to a halt, Suhs future remain a hot topic because of what the two-time All-Pro means to the franchise.

Suh can opt out of his rookie contract at the end of the season, and unless the Lions spend nearly $26.9 million to use the franchise tag, he would become an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

Obviously, hes dominant, Tulloch said. He makes my job easier, him and (Nick) Fairley inside. As long as Im here, Id like to have him here, but hes a heck of a player and hes very dominant.

Tulloch continued to say Suh creates havoc, demands double teams and is a cornerstone player for the franchise. The second overall pick in 2010, Suh is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL and a game-changing player, and if he reached the open market, hed have many suitors around the league.

The only reason Suh may want to strike a deal before the season is because of injury risk, but hes never missed an NFL game due to injury. And Caldwell and Raiola said hes in the best shape of his life.

The guy looks more like Adonis now, Raiola said. I think he cut out more body fat and put on more weight, which is scary.

While the players said there isnt a sales pitch they can make to Suh, the best way to convince him to stay is by winning this year.

If we win, people are going to want to stay here and play here, Raiola said. Im not saying thats what he wants, but Im saying if you win, it makes a place desirable, and especially with coach Caldwell.

And as much as the Lions want to keep Suh here for the future, theyre going to focus on the present when he will certainly be around.

I know hes under contract with the Detroit Lions, and hes coming to camp. And thats that, Raiola said. Hes here, hes a Detroit Lion and Im excited for that.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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Jim Caldwell on Ndamukons Suh: 'I don't think he's going to let anything distract him.' / Daniel Mears / Detroit News