Ndamukong Suh clearly got along better with teammates, media in 2012

Posted Jan 8, 2013

GM Martin Mayhew says third-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh improved both on and off the field this past season.

Ndamukong Suh was a more impactful player on the field for the Detroit Lions in 2012 than he was in 2011.

It still wasn't quite the impact he had as an All-Pro his rookie season in 2010, but it was a discernible improvement from the prior year.

The third-year defensive tackle saw his sacks double from four in 2011 to eight this year. He also had more than 50 quarterback pressures, more than any other defensive tackle in the NFC.

While Suh's play on the field took a noticeable step forward, so too did the way he carries himself off of it and in the locker room with his teammates, according to general manager Martin Mayhew.

"The one thing I'll say about him is that I see growth in him as a player and as a teammate and as a guy," said Mayhew, who singled out Suh after the season as the only returning starter on defense to perform noticeably better in 2012 than he did in 2011.

"The 2011 Ndamukong Suh, he was okay. In 2012, I kind of liked him better, you know. I think I'm going to like 2013 Ndamukong Suh more than 2012 Ndamukong Suh."

Mayhew isn't just referring to his play on the field.

There was a noticeable difference this year with Suh and the way he interacted with his teammates at practice and in the locker room.

The media only gets a short look into practice each day (the first half hour) and is in the locker room for only 45 minutes daily, but even in that short time frame it appeared Suh was more relaxed and more engaging with both teammates and the media.

Mayhew sees the young nucleus of talent on this team subtly growing into leadership roles and included Suh in that conversation.

"Calvin Johnson is a great leader, but he does it by example," Mayhew said. "Matt (Stafford) is growing into that role. Ndamukong can be that guy, too."

In his last interview with the media before the season finale against the Chicago Bears, Suh was asked how his game has evolved over the last three years.

He paused for a moment and, instead of talking about his sacks totals or improved statistics, he said any development in his game hadn't been good enough because it hadn't translated to wins.

"I pride myself on always being somebody who can make a play and do it for the betterment of the team," Suh said. "I feel like I haven't done enough to really help us blossom into wins, so for playing well, it's not enough. I can still do more. There's better things that I could do making other guys around me better."

While Mayhew sees the growth in Ndamukong Suh as both a player and a man, Suh's reputation around the NFL as the dirtiest player in the league isn't likely to change anytime soon. Reputations are hard to alter once they build steam in the wrong direction.

Suh has been branded, and it potentially played a role in him missing out on the Pro Bowl this season, despite having more sacks and quarterback pressures than the three tackles selected ahead of him by the fans, players and coaches.

"He had one personal foul penalty this year and it was a ticky-tack penalty." Mayhew said of the extra shove he gave Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a game late in the season.

"You can call it a penalty, but he had one. Dirty players tend to have more than one over that period of time."

Suh's growth isn't just reflected in sacks, quarterback pressures and a decline in personal foul penalties, according to Mayhew.

"He's a guy who's improving as a professional football player every single year," he said. "I think he's a guy that's growing into a great player and I'm glad to have an opportunity to witness it."