Talking with Tirico: All things Ndamukong Suh

Posted Aug 5, 2014

In a recent conversation with Mike O’Hara, ESPN's Mike Tirico shared his thoughts on DT Ndamukong Suh’s performance, his contract situation and personality away from the field.

ESPN lead anchor Mike Tirico visited Lions training camp in preparation for his Monday Night Football play-by-play duties and shared his observations and opinions on a number of issues related to the NFL and the Lions in a conversation with detroitlions.com.

In this segment, Tirico talks about Ndamukong Suh, whom he interviewed during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Tirico gives his views and opinions about Suh’s performance on the defensive line, his contract situation, and the personality and image he presents away from the field.

His take on the ramifications of Suh heading into the last year of his contract with the Lions:

Tirico: “The contract, going forward, is unmanageable to have a successful team, even as the salary cap goes up. Now, Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew know more about the cap than I do. I don’t know if there’s any reality to you making him a franchise player (in 2015) and still have a usable cap. I don’t think so.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: Detroit Lions)

 “Go through this year, and if the guy has a great experience and wants to be a part of this, you’ll figure out a way to financially do it.

“Does Ndamukong want his legacy to be as one of the great all-time Detroit Lions? Maybe he does.

“Usually, when guys move around in the NFL, we don’t see them have great second chapters, second phases of their career.

“If the defense is to his liking, if there’s success here this year, it might work. Maybe there is a way. So I wouldn’t say that this thing is down the road and done. But for this year, a hungry big, man over the center -- that sounds pretty good.”

(Note: The five-year contract Suh signed as a rookie in 2010 was worth $63 million, with a signing bonus of $40 million. For 2014, his base salary is $12.7 million, and his salary-cap number is $22.4 million.  If the Lions put the franchise tag on Suh next year, it would pay him almost $27 million for one year.)
On whether Tirico would have done the same thing the Lions did – table contract talks with Suh until after the season:

Tirico: “Yes. If you could get it done (agree on a new deal) yes. If you’re honest with each other in a very non-negative way, a very positive way, just say ‘guys, we can’t let this linger into the season because it does no good for anyone.’ and I don’t think it does.”
His take on Suh’s national image as a player who, at the very least, plays outside the bounds of what’s considered within the rules, and if Lions fans support Suh because Detroit treats its sports stars differently from other cities:
Tirico: “I think every city does. You saw the reception Ray Rice got at Ravens camp. If it’s one of your own, you feel like you’re invested emotionally somehow in those players and those individuals. So I would say there’s a little bit of a different feel to it.”
On the side of Suh he has seen in interviews and conversations with him that is different from what fans see on the field:

Tirico: “Ndamukong Suh, when you’re around him – I’ll give you this great anecdote. When he came to Brazil and was at the World Cup, he came on our set one night. When he was on our set, people said, ‘What a great guy. Is this the guy who gets himself in trouble?’ Not at all.

“He talks soccer. He talks about experiences with his Dad. At the end, the other guys said about him, ‘Is that the guy who gets in trouble? Is he the mean guy on the field? What a great guy. He’s got a great personality.’

“He plays with an edge, which he needs to do when you play in the middle there. The question is, knowing when to see that edge that you play with, and not go past it. And I hope that he can, and I think that he will.

“He knows what’s at stake this year. He knows that if he’s a great player and a great leader, that can make him a heck of a lot more money -- whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

On whether Suh could be regarded like the late Reggie White.

Tirico: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”