O'HARA: Suh's puzzling draft comment overshadows all

Posted May 21, 2014

Ndamukong Suh hit all the high notes for most of his 10-minute “welcome to offseason practice” press conference on Wednesday, but the session ended with an off-key clang.

Ndamukong Suh never stops becoming the center of attention, even when he is saying most of the right things and insisting that he would prefer to remain out of the spotlight when he is not going about his business of playing defensive tackle for the Lions.
Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Suh hit all the high notes for most of his 10-minute “welcome to offseason practice” press conference on Wednesday. But the session ended with an off-key clang – like cymbals landing on the kettledrums – with a reference to how he chose to be drafted by the Lions in 2010 when he could have found a way to get drafted by another team.

It was a puzzling comment, one which overshadowed much of what Suh had said earlier.

His explanation for not reporting to the voluntary workouts with most of his teammates last month was logical. He follows a personal training program at home in Oregon and always reports at the start of the Lions’ OTA workouts.

“I’ve been in a great program, one that’s dialed in exactly to me, what’s best for my body,” he said.

All-Pro twice and three Pro Bowls in four years attest to the value of Suh following his program.

He is entering the final year of his contract, but said staying away was not a bargaining tool.

“It has nothing to do with my contract,” Suh said. “I have an agent (Jimmy Sexton) that deals with that. It’s an in-house thing. It’s going to stay there.

“If it was about my contract, I wouldn’t be here now.”

And his heart remains in Detroit as the place he prefers to play.

“Yeah, without question,” Suh said. “I don’t think anybody wouldn’t want to be a Lion. Obviously, I’ve been here and understood what’s so great about this team, the potential we have.

“We have to stop living off potential. We’ve got to get ready and go to work, like we’ve been doing the last couple days -- improve every single day and getting better as an offense and defense and an overall team.”

There isn’t much to argue about with a guy who’s preparing to play at an All-Pro level again, and who says he wouldn’t have reported if his contract were an issue.

But his comments about options in the 2010 draft were unusual.

After the Rams took quarterback Sam Bradford first overall, the next two picks were defensive tackles – Suh to the Lions at No. 2, then Gerald McCoy to Tampa Bay at No. 3.

It seems pretty cut and dried. Teams have the power to draft whoever they want, with no options for players.

That that’s not the way Suh presented it Wednesday in what appeared to be his way of supporting his case of wanting to play for the Lions, and that from the beginning he had a choice over where he would have been drafted.

“There are many ways to do things,” Suh said. “You can drop down in the draft. You can move up in the draft. There a lot of things that happen that you guys don’t know.

“It’s for sure my choice. I’m here in Detroit. I’m happy to be in Detroit. I’m going to continue to play my heart out.”

Rosey Barnes, the agent who negotiated Suh’s rookie contract was replaced earlier this year by Jimmy Sexton, would not comment about any potential machinations involving Suh in the draft.

However, sources with knowledge of the draft situation presented a plausible scenario: that Suh preferred going to Tampa because of the weather and the fact that Florida does not have state income tax, and that the Bucs’ recent record was better than Detroit’s.

Also, the 2010 draft was the last before the NFL instituted a rookie wage scale. There was a de facto “slotting” process, and the Bucs could have had made it known that they would pay Suh what he would have gotten as the No. 2 pick if he was drafted as No. 3.

Suh got a five-year deal worth $63.5 million. McCoy got five years and $55 million.

However, it was clear at the time that Lions GM Martin Mayhew was firm in his decision to draft Suh. And the facts support that. Suh, in fact, was drafted by the Lions.

Whatever temporary firestorm Suh’s draft comments ignited, having him at practice has eased any tensions that may have arisen among teammates.

“Business as usual,” said center Dominic Raiola. “Whatever distractions, if there were any, they’re gone now. He’s back. He’s in full swing. You can see him (in practice) doing extra steps, taking extra conditioning measures, finishing down the field 40 yards.

“We see all that. That’s what we expect out of an elite player – out of a leader on our team. I’m glad all this hoo-hah is over.”