O'Hara: Ndamukong Suh invites Warren Sapp to teach him about the game

Posted Dec 26, 2012

Former NFL defensive tackle Warren Sapp's open criticism of Ndamukong Suh has resulted in the Lions lineman inviting constructive teaching.

Ndamukong Suh isn't going on offense or defense about any disparaging comments Warren Sapp has made about the way he plays defensive tackle for the Lions.

It is more a case of reading and reacting – and wondering a little about the motivation for Sapp's criticism.

Suh isn't asking for a sit down with Sapp, who was a standout defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Bucs and Oakland Raiders. If Sapp is wants to have a constructive discussion about the finer points of playing defensive tackle, Suh seems willing to sit and listen – but not at quite the level of eagerness projected near the end of ESPN's telecast of the Lions' loss to Atlanta Saturday night.

Mike Tirico, ESPN's super play-by-play man, said Suh intended to call Sapp about his comments.

That's not quite the case, Suh said Wednesday in his weekly session with the media.

"What I said to him was, you have a guy who in essence criticizes me and says I'm doing things so horribly wrong and not playing up to my potential - I would assume paraphrasing," Suh said. "I don't know exactly what's going on in his head.

"To me, you can be a fan and just criticize me, or you can be a great person and somebody who could be a legend and somebody possibly in the Hall of Fame and teach me something - show me what you think I'm doing incorrectly. Or just continue as a fan, someone who wants to criticize."

Sapp often rushed to judgment with the same ferocity he rushed the passer in 13 NFL seasons with the Bucs (1995-2003) and Raiders (2004-07). He was a dominating player whose explosive style was matched by his equally explosive personality and temperament.

He hit hard and shot from the lip, and has continued in that vein as an analyst, primarily with NFL Network.

Sapp once said of wide receiver Terrell Owens: "Chicks did the long ball. The wide receivers have always been prima donnas and pretty boys. They are big-time players. The thing with Owens is, he makes so much noise, it's like an empty wagon going down the road. Just go play."

Sapp might not ever win a Marconi or an Emmy – and he finished second in Dancing with the Stars – but he could earn the biggest individual prize for a football player: induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He had four seasons with double-digit sacks, with a high of 16.5 in 2000 and 96.5 for his career. Sapp was first-time All-Pro four times and made it to seven Pro Bowls. He is finalist for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Voting is Feb. 2.
Sapp fired another salvo earlier this month on the Jim Rome Show, questioning Suh's mental approach.

In that interview, Sapp made reference to Suh kicking quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin in the Lions' loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving Day.

"When I watch him after a Sunday, when I sit down and watch the tape, get inside of it, he plays the game with no awareness, and just a blindness that I've never seen from a guy with that kind of ability and talent," Sapp said on the Rome show.

"He's just wasting it. Then you see him make two, three plays a game, and outside of him kicking (Matt Schaub) in the groin, when did he make another play?"

Sapp questioned Suh's feel for the game, saying it is reflected in his unbridled desire to get to the quarterback.

"Too many times, I watch this young man put blinders on, and he's just after the quarterback," Sapp said on the Rome show. "They're not going to let you go to the quarterback free, son."

As good as Sapp was – and his career definitely was worth of the Hall of Fame – a lot of his rants on Suh sound like an old cow grumping about the young bull who has stepped into the spotlight that once illuminated his status.

In his three seasons with the Lions, Suh has gotten more publicity than any other defensive tackle, but not all of it for superb play.

One thing that cannot be questioned is Suh's desire to excel and his work ethic.

He exploded on the scene as a rookie in 2010 with 10 sacks. He was first team All-Pro and was voted a starter on the NFC Pro Bowl team. His production declined in 2011, but he has bounced back this season to lead all NFC defensive tackles in sacks with seven.

Suh sounded ambivalent about sitting down with Sapp.

"I'm not afraid to learn from anybody and in essence take a back-seat role and learn from somebody who's gone through the ropes already," he said.

How does he expect the give-and-take with Sapp through the media to play out?

"I don't know," Suh said. "I really don't care. What's in front of me right now is Chicago. I have to take care of Chicago."