The case against Ndamukong Suh. Sometime today, discipline czars Merton Hanks and Ray Anderson of the NFL will begin to consider the disciplinary case against Suh from the stomping incident Thursday -- on the heels of a pretty good rap sheet in his first two seasons.
With 25 minutes left in Thursday's game against Green Bay, Suh and Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith wrestled on the ground, and Suh three times appeared to forcefully press the lineman's head into the turf. When Suh got up, he stomped his cleat into the arm of Dietrich-Smith and was ejected. After the game, Suh blamed everyone but himself and didn't acknowledge doing anything wrong. On Friday night, after a long conversation between Suh and coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions called the stomping incident "unacceptable'' and Suh issued a similar statement on his Facebook page.
I'm just like you. I'm skeptical of Suh's sincerity. But his apology may give Hanks and Anderson something to think about, because I'm told he wasn't winning any points inside the walls of the league office by his consistent refusal postgame to accept any blame for the incident.
The entire atmosphere around the Lions had led to the popular theory in league circles that the club has been enabling Suh by not being tougher on him after a string of league violations in the first 15 months of his NFL career. Maybe that's changing now. If Schwartz wasn't tougher on Suh Friday when they spoke, then he's one of the enablers. But I have a feeling he finally told Suh to erase his violent streak, and soon, or his career's going to be a string of strong football punctuated far too often by fines and suspensions.
The Lions should very quietly arrange for Suh to get anger-management counseling, because the way he plays, and the way he goes over the edge at times, he looks like a guy who needs behavior modification.
I believe, despite Suh finally admitting he did something wrong, the league will suspend him this week. My gut tells me two games, though the NFL could make it one game plus time already served -- nearly half a game for the 25 minutes missed against Green Bay.
As I said on NBC Sunday night, I think it's likely if Suh appeals his suspension and is suited up next Sunday at New Orleans, the Lions will sit him for the first quarter to show they're serious about reining him in.
One more thing: Suh's history will be weighed heavily by Hanks and Anderson when they make their ruling. The four incidents that have caused him to go under the NFL microscope:
Aug. 28, 2010: Browns QB Jake Delhomme slammed to the ground by his head, resulting in a $7,500 fine.
Dec. 5, 2010: Bears QB Jay Cutler gets a forearm to the back of the head, leading to a $15,000 fine.
Aug. 12, 2011: Bengals QB Andy Dalton slammed to the ground by his head -- $20,000 fine.
Nov. 24, 2011: Packers G Evan Dietrich-Smith stomped on arm; Suh ejected, fine to be determined.
Seasons: 2. Ejections: 1. Total fines: $42,500.
One other note: This is the sixth season for Roger Goodell as commissioner. For on-field incidents (not including things like the Vick or Roethlisberger suspensions) only one player in the Goodell era has been suspended for longer than one game, and that was Albert Haynesworth, who got five games for the Andre Gurode helmet-ripping-off and head-stomping. Gurode was injured by that. Dietrich-Smith, apparently, was not hurt by the Suh stomp.
Goodell sounds as if he wants the trade deadline moved, which is a good thing. I did my NFL podcast last week with Roger Goodell, and the most interesting thing I heard was that he's open to pushing the trade deadline back. It currently is the day after the end of Week 6, roughly one-third of the way into the season ... way sooner than baseball's trade deadline, which occurs two-thirds of the way into the season.
My biggest problem with the deadline was perfectly illustrated by what happened with Kyle Orton last week. The Broncos cut him, getting nothing in return when at last one team -- Chicago -- and maybe Kansas City, Houston and Dallas would have traded a draft choice for him. Kansas City's thrilled to get him for nothing except his salary the rest of the year, but Denver's out of luck because they get nothing when they certainly would have gotten a fifth-round pick, minimum, had the trade deadline been after Week 12.
Said Goodell: "I think our game is a little different from other sports in that teams aren't as reliant on trades, they build more through the draft. But it's exciting when you have a trade. It creates controversy; it creates a discussion among fans. I think the trading deadline is important in other sports. And I think the more we can put that kind of focus in football it's good.''
The NFL saw how interesting the concentrated free-agency period was in late July and early August. But whenever free agency is, it's going to create a buzz. The NFL could have had that last week.
The problem with the early deadline is no team (well, maybe one or two would be 0-6 in some years) is out of it by then, so no team wants to trade for the future. Putting it in Week 11 or 12 would create a mini-frenzy in the couple of weeks leading up to the deadline, with the have-nots dealing players for mid- and late-round picks in the next draft.
"Obviously, free agency was modified this year because of our offseason," said Goodell. "We've talked about how do we create that same kind of enthusiasm around free agency. That was great. It created tremendous interest in the game. It, obviously, was terrific for fans to re-engage with the game that way. And the same could be said for trading. Fans love to see the trades.''
And it's not Herculean to push the deadline back. It'd take a three-quarters vote of club owners next March to do it. Goodell should be the one to push it to fruition. "The game evolves, and we have to evolve with it,'' he said. "And we have to drive that evolution ... If the positives outweigh [the negatives], and we think it's going to make the game better or safer, we're going to pursue that. We will look at anything that's going to make the game more exciting. And I think trades are a positive thing.''
Not every story has a happy ending, but it doesn't mean the ending is sad either. We've just passed the three-year anniversary of longtime SI pro football writer Paul Zimmerman suffering a series of three strokes that left him unable to speak and almost totally unable to communicate. So many of you have asked about Dr. Z over the years -- it never ends, which is heartwarming and, believe me, appreciated by Paul and his wife, Linda, who live in New Jersey.
I've tried to stay in semi-regular touch with them. I was really uplifted by Linda the other day when we spoke. She said she still finds it amazing that even though Paul can't read, write or speak, he's up on the news, exercises every day and has a good outlook on life. "We're not depressed,'' she said. "I think it's because we have each other.''
What a statement.
Zim watches football, though it's hard to know exactly what he comprehends from it because he can't say, "Hey, what a dumb throw that was.'' They watch movies. They follow the news. And he rehabs in the hope that he might be able to regain some of what was lost. But they're both realistic about it. It's been three years, and if this is what it is, then so be it.
They went to Gettysburg in September and got a guide to get in the car with them and drive them around all the war sites. Tremendous fun for three hours. She figures they'll do some more history things because he loves that -- and she does too. In December, I'll gather some of his friends -- Matt Millen, Dick Vermeil, and one or two others -- and we'll have lunch with Paul and Linda in New Jersey. Zim loves that. Millen's fantastic with him, telling him stories about the old Raiders, and Zim can't get enough of them. He can't give back, but he loves to hear and be involved and be in the middle of things.
And the wine -- he still loves the wine. Vermeil will bring a couple of bottles from his vineyard, and we'll drink those. Good thing the stroke didn't take away his taste buds. The man can still eat -- and drink.
So there's an update. I'll be sure to pass along your good wishes if you tweet them to me or send them my way via email at email@example.com.
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