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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Suh must realize soon it doesn't pay to be dirty in today's NFL

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A Packers player tries to hold Ndamukong Suh back as he gets set to step on a Green Bay player. (US Presswire)  
A Packers player tries to hold Ndamukong Suh back as he gets set to step on a Green Bay player. (US Presswire)  

DETROIT -- Question to Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: How can you be so bright, yet so dumb?

In a year, you have taken your reputation and thrown it into the trash, buried beneath the dirt and the filth that has become your game.

You have gone from a player on his way to stardom, the best inside tackle in the game, to one synonymous with dirty play.

Getting "Suh-ed" has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with feeling the wrath of his on-field anger. That showed up again Thursday, only this time a national television audience nestling in to eat Thanksgiving dinner nearly choked on their turkey after seeing you kick a downed player almost smack dab in his giblets.

Suh was ejected from the Packers' 27-15 beat-down of the Lions after he kicked Packers backup guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. For Suh, it's just the latest in a long line of plays that have given him the dirty reputation.

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There is fine line between being aggressive and being dirty.

"I'll consider myself a dirty player when my mom calls me a dirty player," Suh said earlier this year.

Mrs. Suh has to know the truth now. Tell him, mom.

Suh has crossed the line.

"That's a dirty play," Packers corner Charles Woodson said. "I would imagine he thought he was provoked. I can't imagine what somebody did to provoke him to kick, but that's definitely dirty."

On the play, it appeared Dietrich-Smith pulled Suh down as he fell, and Suh seemed to take offense to Dietrich-Smith holding him as he tried to get up. Suh then put a forearm in Dietrich-Smith's head and then kicked him as he got up off the pile.

That led to a 15-yard personal foul penalty that gave the Packers a first-and-goal at the 1 instead of being forced to settle for a field goal. They scored a touchdown two plays later to make it 14-0.

So instead of it being 10-0 with the Lions' best defensive player still on the field, the Lions trailed 14-0 and Suh was done for the day.

After the game, Suh downplayed the incident.

"I was on top of a guy being pulled down," Suh said. "I was trying to get up off the ground. You see me pushing his helmet down because I was trying to remove myself from the situation. As I'm getting up, I'm getting pushed, so I'm getting myself in balance and getting away from the situation. I know what I did and the man upstairs knows what I did. Not by any means [did he intentionally step on Dietrich-Smith]."

The Packers were warned by their coaches before the game to be ready for dirty tactics by the Lions. The message was clear: Do not retaliate.

CBSSports.com Grades
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
A
Aaron Rodgers recovered after a rough first quarter, decimating Detroitís injury-depleted secondary in the second half. Outstanding pass protection made Detroitís potent D-line a non-factor. Three INTs ended any hopes of a Lionsí comeback. The Packers left no doubt that a gulf in class exists between the reigning Super Bowl champions and the rest of the NFC North
Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
F
RB Kevin Smithís knee injury completely changed Detroit's offensive game-plan, allowing Green Bay to focus almost exclusively on stopping Detroitís passing attack. The injury doesnít mitigate the numerous turnovers and penalties that negated any chance Detroit had of getting a crucial divisional win. Like DT Ndamukong Suhís ejection, Detroitís eight-game Thanksgiving losing streak is embarrassing.
By John Kreger
RapidReports Correspondent

"We knew who they were coming in," one Packers player said. "We saw what they did last year."

Under coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions are gaining a reputation for being over-the-top bullies who push the envelope of clean/dirty play. That leads to opposing coaches warning their players before games about them, and officials to zone in on what's going on with Lions players.

"That's been the case a lot this year," Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy said. "Guys take cheap shots under those piles but nobody pays attention to it because they see us as a dirty team. We've got to be smarter about it. We know a lot of teams are targeting us, especially the D-line. They have a hard time blocking them so they do cheap ---- after the play. We've just got to be conscious that we're going to be targeted because of those things."

I asked several Packers if they thought Suh was a dirty player. They gave the right answer with the recorder on, shying away from answering the question.

But turn the recorder off, and the story is a different one. They said Suh was dirty last year as well, even throwing a punch during one of the teams' games that went unnoticed.

"That's who they are as a team," one Packers player said. "Everybody knows it."

For Dietrich-Smith, this was his moment in the spotlight. A backup playing because of an injury to Josh Sitton, he was clearly briefed by the team's public-relations department on what to say about the incident.

"We're just two football players out there playing football," Dietrich-Smith said. "Sometimes stuff happens."

I asked him what he remembered from the play. He essentially pleaded the Fifth.

"I don't know," Dietrich-Smith said. "We'll have to watch the film. I'm sure they have it on TV and all that stuff."

This one was there for all to see, and it comes on the heels of Suh meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell two weeks ago in New York to talk about his play.

That meeting was spurred on by his getting fined $42,500 over the past year and half for three incidents and his wanting a better understanding of why.

Those incidents included a $20,000 fine (later reduced to $15,000) for a hit on Cincinnati's Andy Dalton this preseason. He was also fine $15,000 for a hit on Jay Cutler in Week 13 last year and $7,500 for a hit Cleveland's Jake Delhomme last preseason.

Those were fineable hits, but not really dirty. Compared to those, this kick is dirtier than your white t-shirt after playing a game of tackle football in the backyard mud.

Suh's reputation also includes a lot of stuff that hasn't been seen. He is known around the NFL for stepping on or elbowing a player as he gets up off a pile, nothing major but still what you would consider cheap.

Most of the time, I give dirty players the benefit of the doubt. The NFL is a nasty, violent game and it has been littered over the years with players who played it with a dirty style. We once revered those players.

Now they're shredded in this era of instant analysis, 20 camera angles per game and nonstop highlights.

Giving a guy the business under a pile is one thing, but kicking a player for all to see is an entirely different matter, especially with past indiscretions on the résumé.

"Honestly, the most important person I have to deal with is the man upstairs," Suh said.

He must mean the man upstairs in the big office of the NFL headquarters. Goodell is certainly going to fine Suh and probably suspend him for a game.

My first question to Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga was whether Suh was a dirty player. From the next stall, fellow tackle Marshall Newhouse gave me the business.

"First question?" he shouted. "Really? The first question?"

That, Marshall, was the story. That's the way of the world now. The story isn't the Packers winning their 11th game to stay undefeated and making 16-0 seem possible, but rather it's the Suh kick that is the story here.

Bulaga didn't answer my question, but said, "It's not for me to judge. It's for you to judge."

This judge has a verdict: Getting Suh-ed is a dirty, filthy thing to have happen to you and clearly has no place in the game.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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