ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ndamukong Suh’s stomp will cost him two games without pay.
The NFL suspended Detroit’s All-Pro defensive tackle on Tuesday for roughing up a Green Bay Packers player in front of a national television audience during a loss on Thanksgiving Day. Suh will miss Sunday night’s game at New Orleans and a Dec. 11 home game against Minnesota and he won’t be paid until he is reinstated Dec. 12.
Suh formally appealed the punishment Tuesday afternoon. Art Shell will serve as the appeals officer. Appeals of discipline for on-field violations do not go to commissioner Roger Goodell.
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The league plans to expedite the hearing to make a decision before the Lions play the Saints.
Suh is remorseful and knows he made a mistake last week, but he also was encouraged by the NFL Players Association and Goodell to appeal his two-game suspension, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
However, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said the union did not encourage Suh to appeal.
“The only position the union takes is that as with any player they will support the process if the player choses to do so,” Atallah told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.
Suh is prepared to conform with the punishment, meaning that he is expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Saints with the hope that his suspension could be reduced to one game, sources said.
This suspension is a larger issue than with just Suh, according to one source. The NFLPA wants to try to prevent other players involved in similar incidents from being suspended in the future.
Suh’s suspension will cost him $164,000, or two game checks.
“As a player, you have to appeal it,” said Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the team’s union rep. “I’m sure the NFLPA will be on his side to make sure that he gets a fair hearing.”
Suh called Goodell on Sunday to apologize, but it didn’t seem to help.
“I’ll let him speak for himself when he gets that opportunity, but I’ve had a lot of conversations with him the last two days and I think he is in a different spot,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. “I think his No. 1 thing is, he didn’t want to be a distraction for the team. He wanted the team to be able to focus on the Saints and he wants to be accountable for his actions.”
Schwartz said in a radio interview Tuesday that Suh will have to guard against players trying to bait him into future penalties.
“I think the one thing he needs to be alert for — he needs to make sure he doesn’t get one of these things again,” Schwartz told 97.1 FM in Detroit. “Everybody knows he’s had this one and players are going to push him to the edge.”
Message seeking comment were left by The Associated Press with Suh’s agent and sister. Suh can’t practice or be at the Lions’ practice facility during the suspension.
Lions offensive linemen Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims refused to answer questions about Suh after Tuesday’s practice. Vanden Bosch, though, believes everyone in the locker room supports Suh, who he spoke with on Tuesday.
“His biggest regret is the affect it had on the team,” Vanden Bosch said. “It was an unfortunate situation. When you’re on the field, a lot of things happen when you’re playing with so much emotion in such a physical game. It’s difficult to look at the grand scheme of things when you’re in the heat of the moment.
“There’s no question he’d like to have the moment back, but he’s dealing with the repercussions of it and we are as well.”
Earlier this season, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year requested a meeting with Goodell to discuss his play after he drew several penalties. Suh said he had a better understanding of the rules after that meeting.
Instead, he will be watching his teammates scramble to keep up in the NFC wild-card race after what the league said was his fifth violation of on-field rules in his first two years in the NFL.
The Lions (7-4) currently would miss the playoffs, losing tiebreakers with the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, who both are also 7-4.
During the third quarter of Thursday’s 27-15 loss to the Packers, Suh lifted up his right knee and forcibly stepped on the right arm of Green Bay guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. On the same play, Suh shoved Dietrich-Smith’s helmet toward the turf while separating himself from the Packers player on the ground.
He was ejected for kicking and insisted during his postgame news conference that he didn’t intentionally step on Dietrich-Smith. After the Lions criticized his conduct the next day, Suh issued an apology and the talk of the league was whether he was the NFL’s dirtiest player.
Dietrich-Smith wasn’t available to reporters in Green Bay on Tuesday, but other Packers players heard of the suspension. Linebacker Desmond Bishop said Suh “probably deserved it.”
“He did something wrong, suspended, he’ll pay the fine or whatever and hopefully (he’ll be) back and it’ll change him a little bit from doing something like that,” Bishop said.
Guard T.J. Lang said the team was moving forward and wasn’t worried about Suh.
“Fortunately, we’ve never been in a situation like that,” he said. “We just worry about ourselves and what we do as a group, and I think we have enough intelligence, definitely, as a team, and enough character, guys not doing any dumb things to put the team in jeopardy. That’s for other teams to worry about.”
NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks notified Suh of the penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct” on Tuesday.
Suh has already been fined three times for roughing up quarterbacks and another time for unsportsmanlike conduct. He leads the league with nine personal fouls since 2010, according to STATS LLC — two more times than teammate Cliff Avril and three more than Philadelphia’s Jason Babin, San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson and Denver’s D.J. Williams.
Suh grabbed Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and threw him to the turf after he had gotten rid of the ball in a preseason game this year. He was docked twice last year for shoving Chicago’s Jay Cutler high in the back and for twisting Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme’s face mask and slamming him to the ground. He also was fined $5,000 during Week 9 in the 2010 season for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Suh has been able to absorb the fines, making $40 million guaranteed with a chance to get paid as much as $68 million in his five-year contract he signed after Detroit drafted the former Nebraska star No. 2 overall in 2010.
His reputation, though, has taken a big hit and it will cost a Lions team that is clinging to hopes of earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
“Obviously, it hurts to lose any player for two games much less a player like Ndamukong Suh,” Schwartz said. “But there’s accountability for our actions and that’s a situation where something happened after the whistle. We want to be as tough and physical and play as hard as we can between the snap and whistle, but anything that happens after that we put our team in a bad position and we have to pay the consequences for and that’s the position we’re in right now.”
Suh can try to work on his image and channeling his passion, but he won’t get off an unwanted list of players who have been suspended for on-field conduct during the Goodell era.
Most famously, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games in 2006 for swiping his cleats across the head of helmetless Dallas center Andre Gurode.
Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams was forced to miss a game in 2007 after his third illegal horse-collar tackle of that season. Tampa Bay’s Elbert Mack had to sit out of a game during the 2008 season for a helmet-to-helmet blow, his second flagrant hit in three games. The Jets’ Eric Smith was suspended for a game that year for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Two years ago, Carolina’s Dante Wesley missed a game for a hit to the head.
Vanden Bosch said he’s not sure Suh’s suspension was merited.
“There’s not a lot of precedent,” he said.
Decades ago, what Suh did was just part of doing business on the field.
“It’s a different game, covered differently these days,” said four-time Super Bowl winning linebacker and ESPN college football analyst Matt Millen, whose playing career started three decades ago with the Oakland Raiders. “What’s deemed crazy now, wasn’t crazy back in the day. Now more than ever, you have to keep your poise and control emotions when you feel like you have to retaliate. What you learn is, you don’t have to get back at the guy right then and that you’ve got time to take care of field justice.”
Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene said he suspects Suh has learned a lesson.
“I hated for that to happen to him and I’m sure he does now, too,” Greene said. “With time, he’ll learn how to funnel his fire, but I hope he never loses that fire because he has to have it to play the position.”