Pereira, Polian say Suh's punishment was too harsh

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ndamukong Suh leads the Lions with 8.5 sacks.

Lions players aren't the only ones defending Ndamukong Suh and suggesting he didn't deserve a one-game ban for stepping on Aaron Rodgers' injured left calf in Sunday's loss to the Packers.

Mike Pereira and Bill Polian, two of the more respected NFL minds and both current TV analysts, said Monday they thought the punishment didn't fit the crime.

With Suh appealing the suspension Tuesday to Ted Cottrell, a former player jointly appointed by the league and NFL Players Association, having these two voices in his corner is a good sign, even though their support won't play a role in the decision.

Another reason Suh can be somewhat optimistic is the league didn't list his seven previous safety-related violations in its announcement of the suspension Monday, as it did when announcing Dominic Raiola's suspension last week — Raiola had five others since 2010. If Cottrell doesn't consider Suh's past in the ruling, there's a chance the punishment can be reduced.

If Cottrell upholds the suspension, Suh will miss the Lions' wild-card round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

Pereira, the former vice president of officiating who now works for FOX, posted a video on Twitter saying he thought the league only used heavy-handed punishment because of the two players involved.

"Listen, Suh stepped on Aaron Rodgers. And I firmly believe that if it wasn't Suh and it was another no-name who didn't have history and it wasn't Aaron Rodgers, it wouldn't have led to any type of a fine at all," Pereira said.

Pereira also said Walt Anderson, the referee for Sunday's game at Lambeau Field, texted someone at the league office to say he didn't see any intent when the play unfolded in real time.

"Slow motion makes it look a little different, but to me, is this egregious for a suspension? No," Pereira said. "His hit three weeks ago on (Buccaneers quarterback) Josh McCown was much worse than this, and he didn't even draw a fine for that. Pretty inconsistent discipline process coming out of New York in my opinion."

Polian, a former general manager for the Colts, Panthers and Bills who now works for ESPN, said on Sirius XM NFL Radio that a suspension should've been a last resort.

"I think in this case with the playoffs involved and with competitive balance involved, you better be darn sure — darn sure — beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a suspendable offense before you take a player of this nature off the field in a playoff game," he said.

Polian said he agreed with Pereira and added that even if the step was intentional, it wasn't worthy of a suspension. He also said officials aren't supposed to determine intent.

It's worth noting, though, that Polian and Lions coach Jim Caldwell are close friends after the two worked together for 10 years in Indianapolis.

In a letter to Suh, NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks wrote that Suh's wrote step and pushoff could've been avoided and that he "did not respond in the manner of someone who had lost his balance and accidentally contacted another player who was lying on the ground."

In his defense of Suh, Polian recounted a message Paul Tagliabue relayed from Pete Rozelle, the two commissioners before Roger Goodell.

"Suspension was absolutely the remedy of last resort because suspension carried with it penalties far beyond the player involved," Polian said. "It penalizes his teammates, it penalizes the franchise, it penalizes the fans of the franchise and it in many cases clearly affects competitive balance. To say that this suspension affects competitive balance in the playoffs is the understatement perhaps of the year."