O'Hara's Monday Countdown: Suh's fate - fine or suspension?

Posted Nov 26, 2012

Any punitive action against Suh - fine, suspension or both - could come down as early as Monday, when NFL officials have said they will meet to discuss the issue.

Ndamukong Suh’s immediate future - specifically whether he will be fined or suspended, or both – was one of the hot-button topics on the FOX and CBS network pre-game shows that I watched Sunday.

That was to be expected because of the kicking incident - whether intentional or accidental, involving Suh and Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving Day.

Any punitive action against Suh - fine, suspension or both - could come down as early as Monday, when NFL officials have said they will meet to discuss the issue.

Suh’s situation will play itself out, but that is not the major reason that players, coaches, front office and support staff connected with the Lions should be slapping their foreheads with the heel of their hand in disgust today over the opportunity they’ve squandered to make something of this season.

When the Lions headed home from Jacksonville with a decisive 31-14 win on Nov. 4, they were set up to make a legitimate playoff run. They had a 4-4 record. And after a road game against the Vikings - a team they were favored to beat - they had three straight home games to build on their record.

Momentum and opportunity were on their side - and none of that played into the Lions' hands. Three losses in a span of 12 days have wrecked their season.

This week’s Monday Countdown focuses on Suh’s kicking incident and the network sideshow his career has become and how the Lions lost their mojo at the wrong time.

There is also an update on Calvin Johnson’s pursuit of Jerry Rice’s one-season record of receiving yards, which we began last week, and a look at the six-pack of teams in the chase for the second wild card. It should have included a seventh team - the Lions.

There is also the best and worst of the NFL after 12 weeks.

We start with Suh:
1. SUH TV: Suh might as well form for his own 24-hour cable network with updates on whether he NFL’s is the most disliked player, dirtiest player, most philanthropic player,  most marketed player - most anything player.

A new poll seems to come out every day, with Suh getting the worst of it.

Nothing against ESPN, the NFL Network or even the shopping channels that hawk NFL merchandise, but I honed in on FOX and CBS because they’re the ones who carry the bulk of the NFL games on Sundays and feasted on the red meat of the Thanksgiving Day incident.

Frankly, I expected more coverage in Sunday’s pre-game shows. It would have been a surprise if a satellite truck was track Suh to stream coverage of Suh’s every move.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the coverage:
2. FOX: In a 24-second report - that’s the length of the NBA shot clock - Jay Glazer paraphrased a league official he spoke to, saying just because everyone expects the league to sanction Suh doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

That sounds like covering all the bases.
3. CBS - the best shots: The network televised the Lions-Texans game, and the broadcast and studio crews were outspoken on game day in saying the kick to Schaub’s groin was deliberate.

CBS devoted two segments to the incident Sunday. In the second one, Shannon Sharpe left no gray area in stating his opinion:

“I would have gone to my grave believing he did that intentionally,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe also referenced Suh’s history of fines and a two-game suspension last season for stomping Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

“I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt,” Sharpe said.

Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher gave Suh some support, saying he likes that Suh “plays with the chip."

“He has to clean up,” Cowher said, referring to going too far. “I would fine him, but I wouldn’t suspend him.”

Sharpe countered Cowher’s statement.

“J.J. Watt plays with that same chip,” Sharpe said, referring to the Texans’ defensive end who had a dominant game against the Lions.
4. NFL jumps early: On Friday morning - less than 24 hours after the incident - NFL executive vice-president for football operations Ray Anderson said on the Dan Patrick show that Suh’s kick “appeared to be a little out of the ordinary,” adding that it “didn’t appear to be a natural football move.”

Anderson also said that repeat offenders do not get the benefit of doubt.

My question is why a prominent league official would make a declarative statement three days before the NFL’s review of the incident.
5. My take: I think Suh will get suspended, but my feelings are ambivalent as to whether it is deserved. Some people think the kick was deliberate. Others don’t.

It looked like Suh made a kicking action with his left leg, as he was going down in contact with a Texans lineman.

It’s hard to judge intent. Only Suh knows for sure, and as of Sunday evening, he hadn’t talked. A smart move, I say. In that regard, he has been more judicious that the people who will judge him.

Whatever Suh has to say on the matter should be said to the NFL officials, with his representatives at his side. He has nothing to gain by getting in a back-and-forth discussion, or making a public statement that will only be viewed as self-serving and insincere.
6. The wasted chance: By the end of Sunday’s games, the race for the second Wild Card in the NFC looked like the survivors of one of those 24-hour dance marathons.

Not counting the division leaders, there was a log jam that makes it likely that a 9-7 record will get the second Wild Card.

Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota all are 6-5. The Lions have the tiebreaker on Seattle. And remember, they were favored to beat Minnesota in Week 10. Washington, New Orleans and Dallas all are 5-6.

Of the six teams that are 6-5 or 5-6, only Washington won this week. The rest came tumbling back toward the Lions - who kept tumbling.
7. Playing “what if?”: Imagine the Lions had beaten the Vikings, as they should have, and won one of the last two at home against the Packers and Texans. The Lions would be at 6-5, and the Vikings would be down to 5-6 - and with a 1-5 record in their last six games instead of 2-4 with the win over Detroit.

With a playoff run at full tempo, I’d like the Lions chances against the Colts at home on Sunday.
8. Playing “what really happened”: The Lions had their chances.  As follows:

Against Minnesota, first down near midfield with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Instead, a holding penalty forced a punt, and Adrian Peterson broke a long TD run to clinch the game.

Against the Packers, first down at their 18 for the Packers, trailing by six in the fourth quarter. Instead of a knockout stand, the defense gave up an 82-yard drive and the go-ahead TD. The offense could not answer back - after failing to score a TD on 1st-and-goal at the 10.

Against the Texans, where do you want to start? Blown call by the zebras that gave the Texans a bogus TD? Defense giving up a 97-yard drive to the Texans for the tying TD? In overtime, fumble by Brandon Pettigrew in scoring territory and missed field goal by Jason Hanson? Offense stalling out in the fourth quarter and overtime when a score would have clinched the game?
9. Dead zone: Without exaggeration, the three-game losing streak is the most discouraging, disappointing 12-day stretch in the five decades I have covered the Lions because of the opportunity that was squandered.
10. Megatron-Meter: His pursuit of Jerry Rice’s one-season record of 1,848 receiving yards, set in 1995, continues.
Last game: eight catches, 140 yards.
Total for season: 1,257 in 11 games.
Yards needed to break record: 591.
Average yards per game needed: 118.2.
Average for first 11 games: 114.27.
Average for last five games: 129.

11. The NFL’s best:
1. Texans (10-1): Blown call helped get OT win over Lions.
2. Falcons (10-1): Matt Ryan was on target in comeback win over Bucs.
3. Ravens (9-2): Ray Rice made the play of the year to beat Chargers.
4. 49ers (8-2-1): QB change has added a dimension.
5. Broncos (8-3): Great balance, with a defense that can win in the playoffs.
6. Patriots (8-3): They might win on offense alone.
7. Giants (7-4): Manhandling Green Bay moved them up a notch.
8. Packers (7-4): If they don’t protect Rodgers, they could hit the skids.
9. Bears (8-3): Cutler means everything to this team.
10. Colts (7-4): They seem to find a way most weeks.
11. Bengals (6-5): In playoff hunt with three-game win streak.
12. Bucs (6-5): One-point loss to Falcons ended four-game wins treak.

12. The NFL’s worst:
4-5 (tie): Eagles (3-8), Panthers (2-9) decide fourth and fifth in Monday Night Ugly-thon.
3. Jaguars (2-9): Beating Titans gives temporary relief.
2. Oakland (3-8): Worse than the record indicates. Really.
1. Chiefs (1-10): No offense. No defense. No clue.