Hey everyone- hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, got fat and happy, spent time with friends and family, and successfully avoided the ubiquitous crazy uncle.
Me? I had a great time, and at my family's traditional backyard Turkey Bowl, I made All-Pro as a safety. That said, I would have made All-Pro as a wide receiver too, but our quarterback was tuuuurrible. Just turrible.
Anyhoo... I know it seems like I write as many non-Viking stories lately as I do actual Viking ones, and I intend to work on that. But I did think the whole "situation" regarding one Mr. Ndamukong Suh and "stomp-gate" required a story and a comments section- not just because it's the sensational NFL topic of the day and everyone's talking about it, but also because, as a key member of one of our NFC North foes (and one we, for a very long time, never actually paid any real attention to), this is after all a guy we have to face twice a year. (Well, probably just once this year now.)
Join me after a leap of faith for a few perspectives I would like to share on this dude, as well of course as the comments section, where I hope we get some good thoughts from you- my fellow Viking fandom.
Ah, Suh. Suh, Suh, Suh. Who are you, Suh? (That rhymed.) Are you a gentle giant, a future Hall of Fame, once-in-a-generation guy at a position so often overlooked? Are you overrated? Are you misunderstood? A media-whipping boy, a target of jealousy? Are you a dirty player, with a vicious mean streak and a short fuse that makes me look like the embodiment of self-control? (I actually have a very short fuse- I just successfully avoid showing it here because it's really easy to walk away from a computer until I calm down.) A guy not out to play the game, but to injure and harm the guy lined up across from you?
It's really easy to jump to certain conclusions after what we witnessed against Green Bay on Thanksgiving. And it's not to say that some of those conclusions are wrong, either. This is a guy who could probably fund certain charities with his fines alone, a guy who has a growing highlight reel of at least seemingly dirty plays, a guy who was recently voted by his fellow players as the NFL's dirtiest player. Heck, one of his own former teammates from Nebraska, O-lineman Matt Slausen, has come out and said things about the guy- things like he is, in fact, a dirty player, has an ego, wasn't well-liked. Quite frankly, it does say a lot when a guy who used to be on your alma mater team trashes you. (Conversely, maybe he and Slausen just never did like each other, and Slausen's opinions are his and his alone.)
There are other things to consider, however, when discussing Suh. And again, none of this means that he's really just a nice, misunderstood guy. And quite frankly, none of it excuses what he did- or, at least to me, his comments afterwards (more on that later). First off, I think it's worth noting- and far too often left out in recent discussions on stomp-gate- that that game was one of the worst officiating debacles I have ever seen. And it wasn't even biased, IMO- the refs just sucked at their jobs that day.
Twice that game people were ejected. First, Packers cornerback
Aaron Berry Pat Lee (dammit!) was ejected for tossing a punch that either didn't connect or barely connected. And then, of course, Suh was ejected for pounding Evan Dietrich-Smith's head into the turf a few times before getting up and stomping down on his arm.
Here's the kicker. (No pun intended there.) While this doesn't excuse Berry or Suh's actions, I think it's very worth noting that neither man started it. OK, I know that that's a schoolyard defense that our second-grade teachers typically taught us doesn't fly in court, but I think it is worth noting because, had the officials been maybe a step ahead of their game, neither situation would have necessarily spiraled out of control the way they did.
Berry threw a punch because he was being mugged by two Detroit Lions players (I cannot recall nor find who right now) for a good 5 seconds or so. And with no teammates nearby to help him out. You can't tell me that a football player, trained to be aggressive, isn't going to quickly snap in that situation. Quite frankly, again, the punch was almost (at least to me) more of a "back off!" move as opposed to a "mama said knock you out!" moment. If the refs had been doing their job and were on that scrum the way they should have been, chances were the punch was never thrown, and in all likelihood, the Lions would have faced their own unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
And with Suh, Dietrich-Smith is no saint in that situation. The play was essentially over as far as the lines were concerned when Smitty grabbed and pulled Suh to the ground, where he was essentially holding him down there. Now, I'll pardon Smitty some for the first part- Suh is scary, you want to ensure he doesn't get to your QB (especially considering some of the things he's done once he's there), and chances were both were unaware that Aaron Rodgers had just released the ball. Lots of times O-linemen hold and such when they feel they might be overwhelmed, and while it's still a penalty, many QBs and coaches will admit (if they're being honest) that they generally prefer the holding penalty to a brutal sack- you're probably losing yards either way anyhow, and at least with the hold, the QB's not getting pounded into the dirt. (Just look how the Raiders were handling Jared Allen.)
But holding Suh down there was a recipe for disaster. Should Suh have responded by pounding his head into the turf? Probably not. You don't mess with a guy's head. Helmet or not, that's a ton of force crashing down on the ol' brain bucket, especially when it's Suh who's doing the pounding. Most football players have a bit of a ‘code of honor' when it comes to things like that- you don't mess with a guy's head or knees. At least if you don't want pretty much every other player in the NFL lined up across from you reciprocating.
But it should have never gotten as far as it did. The refs should have been on that situation, thrown a flag on Dietrich-Smith, and defused the situation. Would Suh have responded better had that happened? Maybe, maybe not. But in all likelihood, had he felt the vindication of a flag, perhaps he wouldn't have stomped down afterwards, at least. (Perhaps.) After all, we can't really be sure, without the benefit of a focused tape-study, just how many holding penalties the Packers got away with on Suh. Maybe it was none- or maybe it was a lot, and Suh was getting steamed.
Again, I want to point out that none of this excuses Suh. But it does put some of the blame on the refs, who deserve a good share overall for letting a game get out of hand, in particular with the two situations where players were ejected.
Now, let's turn our attention for a minute back on Suh himself. The decision to pound Dietrich-Smith's head into the turf was poor. The decision to stomp down when getting up was worse, and he deserved what he got in terms of an ejection for it- and he will deserve the likely upcoming suspension, as well. You don't stomp down, for any reason, on a fallen player in the NFL. Dude weighs a lot, and he's wearing cleats. There is the potential for some real damage and injury there.
The one thing Suh might have clung to was this- it didn't add up to what Albert Haynesworth did, and quite frankly, I still don't think there's any comparison between the two situations. Dietrich-Smith suffered no injury (again, doesn't excuse the act regardless), and Suh's stomp was almost an afterthought as opposed to a well-timed and intentional move to severely injure (once again- still no excuse). Haynesworth's victim, Andre Gurode, did suffer a severe injury, and Hayensworth's move was a coldly calculated incident- he stomped once, missed, and then stomped again, clearly aiming for the head twice.
And yet, Haynesworth has something on Suh here, tragically- in the aftermath, Haynesworth owned up. He openly admitted what he did, seemed to feel genuine remorse, and took his punishment like a man, never once claiming he didn't deserve it. While what he did remained perhaps the most disgusting thing I've personally ever seen in a football game, at least he owned it like a man.
Suh, on the other hand, handled it in the most childish way imaginable. He has continued to claim it was all a ‘misunderstanding'. He claims the repeated head-slamming was him trying to get up. (Nonsense.) He claims him stomping down was him trying to ‘regain his balance'. (Nonsense.) Watch the replays- it's not even possible, not even questionable. The head-pounding was quick and repeated- it's not like he did it once, and then was pushing while trying to get up. And he was very well balanced when he lifted his foot and slammed it back down. There was no stagger nor stumble. There is absolutely no way in Hades that this guy, in fact, was just misunderstood. He clearly, clearly was slamming the guy's head into the ground and clearly, clearly stomped down on him afterwards. His only apology is a, well... a bitch one. "I'm sorry to have put myself in a situation to be misinterpreted." Yeah, whatever dude.
I'm not saying I would be defending Suh here had he at least owned up and handled it like a man. And I'm not saying it would have excused what he did, nor made the impending suspension any more unjust. But at least we might have collectively nodded, said "well, the other guy did start it, and the refs were doing a crap job on the field all game- he did something stupid but we probably won't see that happen again".
Now, though, I wonder- will Suh learn his lesson? Poor officiating, a dick move by the other guy, will never make his reaction acceptable. But at least he could have learned and not done it again. But when you punish someone- be it a child or an adult- and they don't even have the ability to admit that what they did was wrong, you have to wonder if they indeed will repeat that behavior. And quite often, they do.
And we, as Viking fans, have to take some thoughtful pause at that. Again, we face this guy twice a year (typically- again, probably not this year). Will it be one of our guys next time on the end of his outburst? Will they, like Dietrich-Smith, escape unharmed... or will they suffer severe injury a la Gurode? Will next time it be Sully, or Hutch, or Ponder, or AP who gets a dose of the "Suh medicine"? Will they get up and shake it off, or will they be left lying on the field? Again, there's a bit of a difference when it's someone like Cortland Finnegan, who doesn't necessarily have the power to cause true, debilitating injury, and when it's a monster of a man like Suh, who easily has the opportunity to deal you a crushing (again, no pun intended) blow.
Overall- quite frankly, Suh is a bit of a paradox here. He's a guy who could probably make All-Pro based off his unique skill set. He's a guy who has the ability to redefine his position, and he's a guy who has the chance to make a name for himself, both on the field and off. He's working hard to market himself as the "good guy", and yet, not so much with his actions, but with his words after, he's quickly throwing it all out the window. This is spiraling to the point perhaps of ‘unforgiveable', something that could define the rest of his career- like how Haynesworth really can't be mentioned without thoughts of a certain head-stomp, regardless of how long ago that was.
And the longer it takes for Suh to make his mea culpa, the longer he makes absurd excuses, the longer it takes for him to man up and own what he did as well as all of the following punishments, the closer he gets to that point- if he's not past it already. Quite frankly, I imagine Rodger Goodell has probably watched his pathetic excuses, and is already tacking on a game or two to the suspension he was already planning. And if he's doing his job right, he should probably contact Suh once the suspension is announced, and let him know that that's exactly what happened.
And again, as Viking fans... we must all take pause now every time Suh is lined up against us, and wonder.