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Lions teammates rally to defense of suspended Suh

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Ndamukong Suh received a $70,000 fine after having his one-game suspension overturned by the NFL for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Allen Park — On Monday afternoon, the Lions defensive linemen were in studying game film and preparing for Sunday's matchup against the Cowboys.

Little did they know that they'd be without one of their leaders for the pivotal playoff game, as Ndamukong Suh was suspended for the game after stepping on the left leg of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell relayed the news to Suh during one of the team meetings and Suh left the room at about 3:30 p.m., without fellow lineman Darryl Tapp realizing Suh was gone.

"Coach Caldwell grabbed him out of one of the meetings and told him and came and told us in the D-Line room what was going on," Tapp said. "It's something you have to move past, work our tail off and hope we get him back next week."

Suh is one of the emotional leaders of the defense and after the Lions gave up 30 points to the Packers, they'll have to find a lift from some of their other linemen.

"I don't get it. I saw the play, and suspending guys? … It's a major blow," safety James Ihedigbo said. "What happened to fining guys? If you think they broke league policy, fine guys and move on and be over with it.

"To suspend him, it's definitely a loss, but we've been able to do it all year with the next man stepping in, so we're going to have to do it this week."

The Lions already are without Nick Fairley, who has missed the last eight games because of a knee injury. Now, they'll be without their biggest weapon on the line, facing one of the best offensive lines and running backs in the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing.

But much like the Lions have done this season in moving forward without Fairley, they'll have a next-man-up mentality and try to plug the gaps. It won't just be a one-man job; rather, they'll work as a collective.

"All 13 of us. I played tackle in the Atlanta game, you have Andre Fluellen who played defensive tackle," Tapp said. "It's whoever they put out there. We're like Yahtzee — you put four of us out there and we make things happen."

Suh is appealing the suspension, but unless there's a change of heart and he's reinstated on Tuesday, the league's No. 1 run defense will be without its stopper in the middle.

Center Dominic Raiola was suspended for the Packers game after a similar stomp and understands what Suh is going through, though he's not giving up hope that the appeal could come in Suh's favor.

"I wouldn't say he's out yet; he still has a shot (at an appeal). I held out hope that whole time and I'm going to hold out hope for him too," said Raiola, who was reinstated Monday. "I know what kind of act it was; it wasn't anything like that, so I'm going to hold out hope that he's still available.

"It's tough when you lose one of the top defensive players in the league, especially one of the best guys at his position."

Jason Jones has played both defensive end and tackle, as has Tapp, and the shuffling likely will be even bigger against the formidable Cowboys run game.

"I'm definitely disappointed. He's a big player for us, so I'm definitely disappointed in what happened," Jones said. "I don't know if he should be suspended — I don't think he should. It's just something now that the NFL and his agent are going to have to handle on their own."

The Lions will look to move on against Dallas as Suh is banned from all team activities and from the practice facility until Monday. His defensive teammates, though, are behind Suh and don't feel like he let them down.

"No, not at all. I've seen the play and I don't think it was intentional. Like I said, he's been playing his heart out all year," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "He hasn't done anything to really hurt the team for some time, so I don't look at it as him being the same old Suh or whatever the case people may be saying."

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard