|Lions DT Ndamukong Suh wants critic Warren Sapp to help him be a better player. (US Presswire)|
Lions' DT Ndamukong Suh's aggressive style of play virtually guarantees that he'll either be loved or hated by anyone who follows the NFL.
Based on his recent comments, former NFL DT Warren Sapp seems firmly ensconced in the “Suh hater” camp. Sapp, who had a reputation as one of the NFL's all-time great pass rushers, has repeatedly criticized Suh in recent weeks, saying the Lions' third-year player exhibits “blindness” when he plays.
"When [Suh] hit this league, he was good," Sapp said in a recent interview on the Jim Rome radio show. "He was real disruptive [as a rookie], but his game hasn't changed. He hasn't evolved. He hasn't evolved as a pass rusher; he hasn't evolved where he can play both sides and become disruptive.”
Suh has mostly avoided responding to Sapp's criticism, but offered an alternative to the ridicule on Wednesday.
Instead of constantly telling him what's wrong with his game, Suh wonders why hasn't Sapp chosen to be constructive and teach him how to do it right?
“I don't know what's exactly going on in [Sapp's] head,” Suh said. “To me, you can be a fan and just criticize me, or you can be a great person -- somebody who can be a legend and who can possibly be in the Hall of Fame -- and teach me something. Show me what you think I'm doing incorrectly. Or just continue as a fan, somebody who just wants to criticize me.”
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Suh's desire to learn from Sapp -- and the mild-mannered way he chose to respond to Sapp's criticism -- offers yet another example of his attempt to overcome his early “hothead” reputation and take a more mature approach to the game.
It's worth noting that for as poorly as Sapp says Suh plays, the two players are poised to have nearly identical statistics over their first 46 NFL games. Through the first three years of his 13-year career, Sapp had 105 tackles and 22.5 sacks. Suh has 98 tackles and 21 sacks through his first 45 games, so he could equal or eclipse Sapp's early performance with a strong showing against the Bears Sunday.
To his credit, Suh isn't immune to the fact that he can improve as a player. In responding to Sapp's comments, he reiterated his belief that he can -- and must -- lift his game to another level.
"I understand what people are trying to do against me, I can anticipate things better,” Suh said. “I feel like I haven't done enough to really help us blossom into wins. Playing well, it's not enough. I can still do more. There are better things that I could do to make other guys around me better.”
To accomplish his goal of being a better player, Suh says he's not ashamed to accept any help Sapp is willing to give him.
“I'm still young in this game, even though it's my third year,” Suh said. “I've got a lot to learn. I'm not afraid to learn from anybody, whether it's somebody who I'm playing with, or somebody who's kind of long gone and been out of the league already for five, six years.
"I'm not afraid to, in essence, take a backseat role and learn from somebody who's gone through the ropes.”
Follow Lions reporter John Kreger on Twitter at @CBSLions and @JohnKreger.