This is the second consecutive Thanksgiving Day game in which Suh has generated controversy. Last year, he stomped on a Green Bay Packers players’ arm, earning a two-game suspension and the ire of fans and commentators alike. He’s had numerous other incidents, drawn fines for illegal hits, and in general has seemed a little puzzled as to why he is a lightning rod for criticism in the league.
This time, the tale of the tape is not so clear. It’s apparent that he kicks Schaub where it hurts, but it’s not so black-and-white as to whether Suh does it intentionally.
Suh is far from the only dirty player in the NFL, but his high profile as a top draft pick and his sheer domination his rookie season mean he is under higher scrutiny than, say, Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who is often included in the conversation about dirty NFL players. Suh plays with more than a mean streak – he plays like his hair is on fire, and he’s looking for the guy that lit the match. In a new interview with ESPN The Magazine out this week, Suh talks about his style of play directly, speaking of a massive hit on Bears QB Jay Cutler: “By no means am I trying to hurt him, but I am going 100 mph and trying to get him as quickly and as hard down to the ground as possible.”
The NFL has such an image problem recently, thanks to concussions entering the national conversation and the Saints’ bounty scandal from before the season, and there is no doubt an emphasis to crack down on offenders. But the NFL has always been filthy – yes, it’s gotten cleaner, but the game is fundamentally based on hitting and tackling. Kicking a guy in the crotch is one thing, but a hard hit on a quarterback is not necessarily dirty. Just because Suh stomped on a guy once does not mean every borderline hit has malicious intent.
Suh deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one. He’s a football player, not a ninja – if he were trying to kick Schaub intentionally, he should probably be planning for a post-NFL career in martial arts movies.