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Lions' Ndamukong Suh finally speaks -- but not much

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Ndamukong Suh (90) finally addressed reporters Wednesday for the first time since stepping on Aaron Rodgers’ leg.

Allen Park — Ndamukong Suh had no interest in discussing his league-imposed punishment for stepping on Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, responding "next question" to nine questions related to the incident that initially drew a one-game suspension from the NFL.

Appeals officer Ted Cottrell reduced Suh's punishment to a $70,000 fine, a message that he — like the league — thought Suh purposely stepped on Rodgers, but didn't think it was worth banning him from Sunday's playoff game in Dallas.

Suh skipped his postgame interview responsibility after the Lions lost to the Packers, 30-20, so Wednesday was the first time he spoke publicly since the incident. He started the seven-minute interview in the auditorium at team headquarters began with a n opening statement, a rare move for a player.

"Good afternoon," he said. "I'm glad to be back and absolutely looking forward to this playoff game, and I think that's most important. I'm here to talk about Dallas and our preparation for that."

Asked about the suspension and the appeals process, Suh repeatedly responded with something in the same vein.

"I'm ready to focus on Dallas and get ready for that game," he said, answering similarly to eight questions.

First-year Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who initially said the step was inadvertent before seeing it Sunday, defended Suh when pressed about how to prevent further incidents that could result in punishment.

"I can only tell you that since I've been here with him the guy has been solid and he's been good and he listens and he tries to do the right thing, plain and simple," Caldwell said.

Throughout his interview session, Suh rejected several questions. They included The posits ranged from his intent on the play, to his reported excuse that his feet were numb from the cold and to why he has consistently drawing the ire of the NFL. Other questions were about his reaction to the initial suspension and to his decision to appeal in person at the league office in New York. Told the fans are more curious for an explanation than the media, Suh responded, "Next question."

Lions coach Jim Caldwell declined to share the organization's involvement in the appeal process because it was a confidential hearing, but did address the 27-degree day.

"It's a cold day. It was cold up there," he said. "Everybody was cold. Let's make no mistake about it."

Caldwell, like Suh, became testy when his news conference centered on Suh and at one point shut down questions about the All-Pro defensive tackle.

"We're glad he's back — happy about it, excited about it, thankful about it," Caldwell said.

Caldwell also said he's not concerned that about his team developing a reputation of being dirty after Suh's incident and center Dominic Raiola stomping on Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson the week before. Raiola got a one-game suspension that appeals officer Derrick Brooks upheld.

"I just think that, obviously, sometimes an incident or two will cause it — particularly with the glare of the media, so much is written about it," Caldwell said. "For the most part, it's just kind of the way society is today that people are looking more for a train wreck than they are accomplishment.

One of the questions Suh did discuss was his reaction to Cottrell overturning the suspension.

"I'm just pleased with the decision and glad I have an opportunity I can go against Dallas and help my teammates win the game, and I think that's most important," he said. "Today's going to be a big day in practice putting everything in and then obviously getting ready for the rest of the week."

Suh was also asked if he understood why he hasn't been given the benefit of a doubt in safety-related violations. This was the 10th time Suh has drawn a fine or suspension from the league in five seasons.

"Life is life, so you take it as it is and like I said, I'm getting ready for Dallas," he said.

Suh did explain why he wasn't available for interviews after the game Sunday, saying he was on the team bus ready to head back to Detroit.

Suh did not reject a question about the NFL's modified repeat offender policy that helped ensure his past transgressions didn't play a role in the most recent punishment. Because Suh's fine from Week 6 last season for a hit on Brandon Weeden was rescinded on appeal, he'd gone 33 straight games — including preseason — since his last safety-related violation.

The league now gives players a clean slate after 32 games without a violation. Suh initially said he hadn't seen the policy, but when reminded he received a letter after his 32nd clean game, he explained he didn't know all the details.

"I haven't reviewed it like that — too nitty gritty," he said.

While most of the questions focused on the NFL's punishment, there was one that drew a thoughtful answer about the magnitude of Sunday's game.

"It's an important game," he said. "At the end of the day, it's a playoff game. It's one of the biggest games of my career and hopefully we can come out on the right end of that. I think the best way to get that done is going out there today in practice and focus on what I need to take care of and do my job and help my teammates in other areas as much as possible and go from there."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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