Will the NFL Ever Manage to Draw a Line?

And now, in this season of giving and new beginnings, we come to the curious case of one Ndamukong Suh.

Mr. Suh is a very large man who plays defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. His job (and he does it quite well) is to push his way past other very large men and tackle any opposing player who happens to have the ball, usually a running back or a quarterback. The problem is that he doesn’t stop there. Apparently, he figures that if he can also injure these players, they cannot keep playing and his team stands a better chance of winning games and gaining all manner of NFL riches.

Last week, he clearly twice stepped on the injured leg of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers — not once, twice. I saw the game on TV, watched the several replays, and it was obvious that the second step was deliberate, even if we give him the benefit that the first was an accident.

Suh has a long history of such behavior — in 2011 he was suspended for two games for stomping on the arm of Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith. In 2013 he was fined a league record $100,000 for a low block on Viking center John Sullivan. He has also roughed up quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Jake Delhomme and Brandon Weedon during his illustrious career. It seems he has a fixation on centers and quarterbacks, the backbone of the opposing team’s offense.

You would think that the assault on Rodgers would draw another fine and suspension, but you would think wrong. The NFL did announce a one game suspension, but the upcoming game is a playoff contest against Dallas, and Suh is very important to Detroit’s chances of winning. Because the NFL agreed to a power sharing arrangement with the players union in the appeals process, Suh has not been suspended by NFL Appeals Officer Ted Cottrell, but fined for the NFL player chump change amount of $70,000. Cottrell is paid jointly by the league and the players union, and regularly uses his power to reduce NFL-imposed penalties on players.

It gets worse. Since Suh’s last violation occurred in Week 1 of the 2013 season, he had managed to play in 32 consecutive games without being fined or suspended. This is enough to have him removed from the NFL list of “repeat offenders”, as stipulated in the union contract.

Couple this with the crazy quilt handing of the assault cases against Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and it is clear to me that the NFL owners and League leadership have lost their way. In case Roger Goodell and Company have not noticed, there is far less tolerance for bad behavior among athletes than in years past, and the NFL needs to regain control of its game.