Another day has passed since the Lions' pre-season opener against the Bengals, which means another day of over-analysis regarding the cleanliness of Ndamukong Suh's hit on Andy Dalton has ended as well.
It must be that time of year again, where there is nothing else to agonize about in the football world but injuries and make believe news
Now, we are forced to hear debates on the semantics of Suh's "late hit" on Dalton in Detroit as if it were the Zapruder Film. Did Dalton's head go back and to the left out of the helmet? Did Suh act alone, or was he with accomplices? It's shocking congress hasn't authored a commission report yet.
Worse, the assertions have begun to arise after this minor (and penalized) incident that Suh, already one of the most feared defensive linemen in the NFL, is a dirty player due to a series of notable other encounters with quarterbacks.
There is one small problem with that theory: Suh is not a classless player. To be dirty, you must first lack class. But, due to a few sensationalized isolated incidents (the Jake Delhomme hit, the Jay Cutler shove, and now Dalton) Suh has been labeled a bully, out to assault quarterbacks with illegal dirty hits every time the ball is snapped regardless of his true intent.
It's fantastic that Suh is getting a feared and somewhat distasteful reputation in the NFL, but not once has he injured someone intentionally. Never has he led with his helmet across the middle, or intentionally stepped on a defenseless player. Those are the marks of dirty players on the football field without class. Suh simply has a motor that doesn't quit until the whistle is blown—a rare talent for a man his size and position—and is willing to do whatever it takes to chase players down.
Because his position archetype is perceived to be slow and lazy, Suh isn't allowed to play aggressive and tough in the minds of many. Especially when it concerns breathing on the NFL's most precious commodity, a quarterback.
So, due to a few plays, Suh has mysteriously generated this label. People begin to discuss Suh as dirty. What about James Harrison, who makes no bones about his distaste of Commissioner Roger Goodell and fact he loves creaming players who dare test him over the middle? What about the countless other safeties and linebackers in the NFL who make a living out of spearing defenseless receivers, running faster and more dangerously in most cases than a quarterback Suh is chasing in the pocket?
The few loud talking players who are out for blood represent the scourge of the NFL. They are the ones who should be criticized and placed under the microscope for every hit, not Suh.
He isn't trying to hurt anyone. Suh never makes excuses after the game, rarely dodging questions about his play or mouthing off about an opposing player, referees or even the commissioner. He's out to be an image buster in the NFL, someone who goes out of his way to do what's right by his colleagues and teammates. Suh is the epitome of a gentle giant.
But this "dirty" label is suddenly becoming Suh's regardless of all that.
He's been dominant on the field, and in this day in age, it seems nobody is allowed to simply be imposing without facing questions and unjust character assassination.
Suh is intimidating, but he is not dirty. Players agonizing about how clean his next hit will be have already played into his hands. They aren't focused on beating him, they're focused on how badly they will be beaten.
Sounds like a recipe for even more quarterback collisions in the future.
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