During a Week 17 matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, Ndamukong Suh stomped on Aaron Rodgers’s ankle. In the scope of a football game this “offense” seems very minor, until you factor in Suh’s history, Rodgers health, and the exact circumstances of the event.
For those of you not aware, Suh has a rap sheet that is long enough to need chapters. The league has fined and suspended him on numerous occasions for dirty and unsportsmanlike behavior, one of which already included stomping on a player while he was on the ground. Rodgers has been nursing a calf injury, which so happens to be on the same leg that was stepped on. In reviewing the footage, Suh is not looking at the ground or Rogers, but leisurely steps back, catching the leg with the heel of his foot, before readjusting his weight and stepping firmly on the leg. He then raised his other foot off the ground and applied his entire weight to the ankle area before stepping off.
It is possible that this was an unintentional circumstantial occurrence within the framework of a football game. It is also possible that the Jacksonville Jaguars will win the Super Bowl next year. The history surrounding Suh is too much for anyone to believe that this was a chance happening. The league felt so strongly that the initial punishment for this was a one-game suspension and a fine, later arbitrated to just the $70,000 fine. This is where the league’s gamble is coming into play.
For those of you who don’t routinely read my work (shame on you) I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. The Detroit Lions are playing the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday in the wild-card game (the game Suh would have been suspended for before the arbitration). In the hope of maintaining full disclosure I feel like you should know this, dear reader. That being said my article here will not create any change in the situation (I’m a writer, not a miracle worker), and I state by this saying, regardless of who the Lions were playing my feelings on this matter would not change.
The best-case scenario: both teams play a brilliant game and there is no questionable play from Suh during the contest. The consensus best team wins and goes on to face the Green Bay Packers next week.
The worst-case scenario: Suh plays really dirty, so much so that he injures a key cog for Dallas. Then either team moving forward is crippled. Dallas would be missing a player, or the Lions would be missing Suh (as a suspension would stick this time).
Some NFL analysts argued that the fans shouldn’t be cheated because of something that may have been an honest mistake. I can agree with that, assuming it was an honest mistake. With any other player in the league I don’t think there is any discipline. To that same point, should cheaters be allowed to cheat with no punishment? Are the fans owed a viewing of any player being injured (or attempted to be injured) with tactics that are anything less than within the rules of the game?
What the league should have done is suspended him for the playoffs (likely to have been reduced to the one playoff game). The reason I say this is because if Suh injures one player, even if it is within the confines of the game, the debate will rage that he shouldn’t have been playing. This is going to be the case in any game the Lions play this post-season, up to, and including the Super Bowl if they should make it that far.
I want to see the best competition out on the field. I want to see no circumstantial excuses for why one team lost and another won. I want to see premier athletes compete for the ultimate prize in their sport. But; I want the competition to be fair. I want the players to be honest to the integrity of the game. I want the play between the whistles within the rules to be what defines the better team. Every competitor should want to win, the question as to how should never include a cost.