MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: Reasonable doubt ultimately proved to be a defense for Ndamukong Suh

Posted Nov 26, 2012

The NFL got this one right, if for no other reason than there was reasonable doubt that Suh intentionally kicked Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the left groin as he was blocked in an attempt to sack him.

Reasonable doubt ultimately proved to be a defense for Ndamukong Suh by people who should apply reason without emotion  in making  judgments on player conduct.

Frankly, having reason applied to the Lions’ controversial defensive tackle was the biggest upset in Week 12 of the NFL schedule.

I was surprised by the NFL’s announcement Monday afternoon that Suh would not be suspended for a kicking incident involving Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the first half of the Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field.

I thought the NFL would cave to the tsunami of media indictments of Suh’s action that began immediately during the CBS network’s broadcast of the holiday game and continued throughout the weekend.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello announced on Twitter Monday afternoon that there would be no suspension after league officials had reviewed the incident that day. A fine, however, is possible, Aiello said.

The NFL got this one right, if for no other reason than there was reasonable doubt that Suh intentionally kicked Schaub in the left groin as he was blocked in an attempt to sack him. Suh was face down, with his left leg extended as he made contact with Schaub’s groin area in an unusual kicking motion.

There is no doubt that Suh made contact. But there was reasonable doubt that he actually intended to kick Schaub, or was making a deliberate kicking motion to kick anywhere he could make contact.

Suh did not comment after the game.

After a breakout rookie season in 2010, when he made first team All-Pro and was voted a starter for the NFC Pro Bowl team, Suh has been a good, if not great, performer the last two years. The Lions are a better defense with Suh in the middle, getting double teams that free up other interior linemen such as Nick Fairley to make plays.

Apart from his performance, Suh has  been a lightning rod in his three seasons as a Lion. His persona and reputation as a tough, angry player feeds on itself. He got caught playing outside the rules in his first two seasons and was sanctioned heavily.

He was fined three times for hits on quarterbacks, but his biggest and ugliest transgression was stomping on Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. He was suspended without pay for two games for the incident.

Until the Houston game, Suh had not been involved in an incident of any magnitude since the stomping episode.

However, that did nothing to soften his image with players and fans. In the last year, he has been voted the NFL’s most disliked player by fans, and the dirtiest by his peers.

All of that – prior misconduct on the field and the fan and player polls – have made Suh an easy target.

Frankly, I thought the NFL played a role in tipping the scales toward suspending Suh when league vice-president Ray Anderson weighed in on the incident on the Dan Patrick show Friday morning.

Anderson called Suh’s kick “a little bit out of the ordinary,” and added that repeat offenders do not get the benefit of the doubt. In the comments,  Anderson gave the impression of prejudging the case. It was the time for a top league executive to take a more reasonable approach and make no comment.

No doubt, that would have been more reasonable.