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Dolphins' Philbin happy Suh is on his side now

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has seen the way Ndamukong Suh impacts the game since the defensive tackle entered the NFL in 2010, first as an offensive coordinator for the Packers for Suh's first two seasons.

"I was coaching for a team that played him twice a year, so I remember a lot of the impactful plays that he was capable of making early in his career," Philbin said Monday at the NFL annual meetings.

Among the most memorable plays Philbin saw from Suh, though, came on Miami's first offensive snap of the Dolphins' loss to the Lions at Ford Field this season when Suh dropped running back Lamar Miller for a 2-yard loss. Oddly enough, Philbin and the offensive staff watched that play while examining all of their negative run plays a day before Suh arrived in Miami.

Now, Philbin will have Suh's All-Pro impact on his side after the Dolphins signed him away from the Lions with a six-year, $114 million deal with $60 million guaranteed.

When the Dolphins pursued Suh, Philbin said he thought their defense would be a good fit for him, and Suh apparently agreed. But Philbin also did plenty of homework on Suh, including making a phone call to Suh's former strength coach from Nebraska, with whom Philbin worked at Iowa.

"You want to get comfortable and so you want to talk to people that you trust and you believe in," he said.

Philbin felt comfortable with Suh as a player and a leader and isn't concerned about Suh's past on-field indiscretions.

"I think some of those incidents occurred a long time ago and obviously players learn from situations as I think he mentioned," he said.

Of course, Suh nearly earned a one-game suspension for stepping and standing on Aaron Rodgers' injured calf in a loss to the Packers in Week 17, and another misconduct issue could result in a suspension that Suh doesn't have overturned on appeal.

"What we're really focused on is his contributions and his performance and his leadership as a Miami Dolphin," Philbin said. "I think he's at a different stage of his career now, but certainly those are things that are important. I think he realizes that and we realize that, but we're excited about the working relationship that's going to start real soon."

One aspect of that relationship — Philbin soon will realize — is the level of scrutiny Suh receives because of his status as a top-tier player.

With the Lions, Suh skipped voluntary minicamp in April, which the Lions had because they hired a new coach in Jim Caldwell, to train at home in Portland, Oregon. The decision became an overblown story, especially in 2014 when Suh was set to become a free agent and playing for a new coach. Suh, though, participated in organized team activities — which he had skipped in the past — in May and was in peak shape when he arrived.

Philbin said he has discussed the Dolphins' voluntary program with Suh and is hopeful he'll be in attendance when it begins.

"We'll see how things go," Philbin said. "We've talked, and he knows how important the offseason program is. We've had great, great attendance at our offseason program every year. That being said, it's voluntary. None of the players have to be at the offseason program until the mandatory minicamp.

"We'll see. I expect to see him there, sure, but we'll see how it goes."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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