Suh fine shows NFL only protecting itself

Posted Dec. 08, 2010 @ 6 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The NFL is out of control. The powers that be have taken this thing too far.

The fact that Lions DT Ndamukong Suh was fined $15,000, a total he makes on an off day in Detroit, is not the issue here.

It's that the league has warped its sense of right and wrong in the case of what it determines to be dirty or unsafe plays, and it's affecting the quality of the games.

Allow me to rephrase: The NFL is hiding behind the auspice of wanting to protect players, when all it really is doing is trying to protect the referees, who blew a call.

On Sunday, Bears QB Jay Cutler scrambled, leaving the pocket and thus becoming a runner. Suh, the rookie buzzsaw, saw an opportunity to crush him. And he had every right to do just that. If the jersey on the back said "Forté" or "Taylor," Suh's hit — which looked pretty rough on first glance at full speed — would not have cost him a penny.

The refs threw a flag. Again, I thought it was a back-of-the-helmet thing. I can see, even with the ref standing about three yards away, how he blew the call.

But why the NFL is fining Suh is beyond me. It was obvious, after a slow-motion review, that Suh really just shoved Cutler in the back. Cutler's neck whiplashed back, so you know how much force we're talking about here. But as far as dirtiness on a scale of 1 to 10, this one was a 1.6. It just wasn't.

How else is Suh supposed to get Cutler to the ground? Cradle him down?

Cutler predictably said he "wasn't surprised" by the fine on Wednesday. But if any other player was involved, even as a quarterback I think he would find this fine a little ridiculous.

All personal-foul penalties are reviewed by the league office. Anything deemed egregious beyond a normal level can earn a fine. But this one should have been thrown out immediately. Ed Hochuli penalized Suh for a blow to the back of the head, but replays confirmed that he was shoving Cutler in the back. Nowhere in the rule books is this seen as a punishable offense.

I think the bigger problem is that the NFL is starting to build files on guys. Just ask James Harrison. I would not doubt for one second, given all of his fines this season, that a tape of the Steelers' defense lands on the desk of NFL executive VP of football operations Ray Anderson every Monday or Tuesday.

Suh already has been fined for his preseason takedown of Browns QB Jake Delhomme and has had four personal-foul penalties in 12 games, including the one he incurred with Cutler. The Lions also coincidentally lead the NFL in penalties and in essence have been called dirty by the Bears, Vikings and Jets. Suh is a rookie and likely won't shake this reputation, a la Harrison, for several years.

The NFL has a flawed system now where, to misquote Shakespeare, fair is foul and foul is fair. No one, certainly not the NFL, knows what is legal and what is not. The fans don't. The referees don't. And most importantly, the players don't either.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was incensed on Sunday when the call happened, and he has to be livid now. I can see why.

The league has helped create this mess. It wants to curb violence to protect itself and avoid public scrutiny, but what it has done is open to the door even wider to that exact thing. Now every hit that happens is scrutinized and dissected, and when Suh is fined for this kind of thing — as well as numerous other hits this season — there is a reaction: good, bad or otherwise.

It has become the story in the NFL this season, and players no longer know how to play the game the way they have been taught to play it.