News Column

Ndamukong Suh Keeps Focus on Play, Limit Distractions

November 28, 2012

Dave Birkett

The Lions have adopted the stance that they don't believe Ndamukong Suh's kick to Matt Schaub's groin was dirty.

The Texans disagree.

So how does NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell feel about the play?

"Anytime you see a play like that you want to say, 'Why did it happen?'" Goodell said today at the Lions 19th annual Courage House dinner at Ford Field. "It's hard for us to be able to determine that just from video. Those are the things that sometimes you have to talk to Ndamukong in this case, or the player, but intent is something that's very difficult for us to ever try to make a judgment on."

Goodell said he hasn't spoken personally with Suh about his latest Thanksgiving foot foul and he's not sure if any other league officials have, but the NFL is still "going through the process of whether it should be a fine."

One of the game's most divisive players, Suh has been fined four times and suspended once in his first three NFL seasons for various on-field incidents and made headlines off the field in an assortment of negative ways.

Earlier this month, Suh was involved in at least his fifth traffic incident as a Lion when he was ticketed for driving without due care and caution in Lathrup Village.

"I think Ndamukong prides himself in what he does on the field and that's something that you always want to keep that focus as a player," Goodell said. "He also does a lot off the field in a positive way, but they get lost when things happen that can distract from that. That's the one thing that Ndamukong and I have talked about in the past is keep the focus on your playing and what you do in a positive way off the field, and he knows he needs to do that, as every player does."

Both Lions president Tom Lewand and coach Jim Schwartz said today they agreed with the NFL's decision not suspend Suh for his kick on Schaub.

Schwartz called the kick inadvertent and Lewand said "we didn't feel a suspension was merited and we're glad it was seen the same way by the NFL."

"What I saw was his head was down and away from that play," Schwartz said. "In my mind you would have to have eyes in the back of your head to be able to do it (on purpose)."

Lewand downplayed the negative publicity surrounding Suh and how much of a bother it is to the Lions, but he acknowledged "there is a greater spotlight on him because of his image, his profile."

"And with that comes a greater responsibility," Lewand said. "I think that we've seen an increasing development of his awareness and his responsibility and I think you see that with the fact that he has not had a personal-foul penalty levied against him all year, period."

Goodell didn't directly express any concern about Suh's image, either, but it's clear the defensive tackle has his attention.

"The reality is since last Thanksgiving he has not been fined or disciplined from our standpoint," Goodell said. "I know he's working at it and he's trying at it and he knows he's got to continue to do that. The rules are there and everyone's got to play by those rules, whether you're Ndamukong or any other player. You have to play by the rules and we expect everyone to do that."

Goodell addressed several other topics Tuesday with reporters and in a question-and-answer session that was part of the Courage House dinner:

-- On the recent rash of players suspended for using Adderall and what more the league can do about it: "Well, we educate first and then we obviously have a testing program. It's a substance that we don't want to see in the game and it's not good for their long-term health so we're going to continue to test for it. And if players don't take it, that's the best alternative."

-- On whether he expects the NFL to relocate a current franchise to Los Angeles or expand from 32 teams: "It's going to require that they get the right kind of facility. ... We have to get that kind of partnership in L.A. to get that done, once we do then we'll decide whether it's expansion or realignment."

-- On if he's glad he's not NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: "I was Gary Bettman (during the NFL lockout last year). ... Listen, it's a difficult process and it's an unfortunate for the part of business. I feel for Gary. Fortunately, he's had a little experience at it. He's working hard it, I know that. I'm sure there's nothing he'd like better than to get back on the ice."

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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