During the final week of the 2014 NFL regular season, the NFC North was decided at Lambeau Field in the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. During the game, Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers injured his calf in the second quarter and re-entered the game in the third. After his return, there was a play where Rodgers was on the ground and Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stepped on the same calf that Rodgers had injured earlier in the contest.
At first blush, it certainly appeared that Suh. . .who is probably the NFL's dirtiest player. . .stepped on Rodgers' leg on purpose. Initially, the National Football League agreed, suspending Suh for this weekend's playoff game between the Lions at the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. However, on appeal, the league chose to overturn that suspension, instead levying a $70,000 fine against Suh and giving him the opportunity to play this weekend.
Suh's camp used the excuse that his feet were numb and that he didn't know he was stepping on Rodgers. Ted Cottrell, the former Vikings' defensive coordinator and now NFL hearing officer that heard the appeal, apparently didn't buy that excuse, which is good.
What's bad is what, reportedly, moved Cottrell to overturn the suspension, according to Pro Football Talk.
So why did Cottrell overturn the suspension? Because he was swayed not only by speaking directly to Suh but by hearing from Suh's representatives and from the Lions, who felt that the entire franchise would be punished if one of its best players was barred from a playoff game.
"Several of your representatives, including personnel from the Lions, argued that the impact of your suspension would have a devastating effect on you, your teammates and coaches, as well as Lions fans," Cottrell wrote.
Well. . .yeah. And?
I mean, I'm not even looking at this in terms of how the NFL handled this compared to how they handled the entire Adrian Peterson mess, because I get that there's a distinction between on-field and off-field transgressions. (Although, boy, the National Football League certainly can hear an appeal quickly when they feel like it, can't they?) But honestly, based on this, no player should ever have to worry about being suspended for anything they do on the field, even if they're a repeat offender. Picture this. . .
Team rep: "Mr. Cottrell, we don't think that it's fair that you suspend (insert player here) because of what happened."
Cottrell: "Why do you feel that's the case?"
Team rep: "Well, because this guy is really, really good and our team won't be as good if he isn't on the field."
Cottrell: "Hmmmmmm. . .you make a very compelling argument. Okay, then, no suspension."
The $70,000 fine isn't even the largest one that Suh has faced for his actions on the field. In the 2013 season opener, he laid an illegal block on Vikings' center John Sullivan on an interception return that got him a $100,000 fine, to this day the largest fine received by a player for on-field actions.
You know, maybe if players know that they're going to be suspended when they go out of their way to do stupid things on the football field, they'll be less willing to do stupid things on the football field. After the Cottrell ruling in the Suh case, however, maybe players no longer have to worry about that sort of thing. I mean, Cottrell even acknowledged in his ruling that he thought Suh had done something wrong and that
. . .Your conduct was a clear violation of the Playing Rules and was outside the normal course of the game of football. It must be emphasized that illegal acts that jeopardize the safety of other players, as was certainly the case here, will not be tolerated in this League."
Well, apparently they are going to be tolerated in this league. Maybe they'll only be tolerated if the player in question has a big enough name, but Ted Cottrell has, contrary to his statement, sent the message that they will, indeed, be tolerated in some way, shape, or form.