RENTON – The opinions of Ndamukong Suh vary around the National Football League.
Some people think he’s aggressive. Some think he’s dirty. Some loathe him. Some might loathe him less if he were on their team. Some think he’s on the verge of greatness. Some think he’ll never be anything more than a bully on the field.
Hate him or love him, you better respect him because there might not be a more disruptive, menacing, game-changing defensive lineman in the NFL. And if not properly addressed, Suh could hurt your quarterback, hurt your running back and kill your postseason dreams with a vicious hit.
The Seattle Seahawks are more than aware of the havoc that Suh and his defensive linemates can cause Sunday in Detroit.
“He’s a real good defensive lineman,” said Seahawks center Max Unger, who will have to block Suh on more than a few occasions. “He’s a talented player and you definitely need to know where he’s at on the field.”
Just ask Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler about the Suh experience. On Monday Night Football, Suh needed all of one arm and a little momentum to body-slam the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Cutler into the Soldier Field turf like he was feather pillow. It was a gruesome, nasty but legal hit that left Cutler with a sprained left shoulder. The seemingly 2 million replays in the days following didn’t make the hit look any less painful.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has seen it more than enough times.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” he said. “I focus on what I can control, getting the ball out on time, with rhythm and an accurate football. And I just play the game.”
And the hit itself?
“I thought it was a clean play,” Wilson said. “He’s obviously an extremely talented player, a strong player just trying to make a play.”
The league also thought it was a clean hit. Suh, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2010, was not fined by the league. “He wasn’t flagged and he wasn’t fined,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “That’s a good thing because we want to get after the quarterback.”
While Suh wasn’t fined for that hit, he has been fined multiple times by the NFL for questionable hits. There are some critics who think that the rage and intensity he plays with make him an out-of-control dirty player. The Seahawks do not.
“The guy plays hard, and you can’t fault him for that,” Unger said. “We play hard, too. It’s just his style of play. I’ve never played against him. But a lot of time the film doesn’t give you an accurate picture of what’s going on.”
Suh, who starred at Portland’s Grant High School before playing at Nebraska, plays with an aggression that often ramps up to the perceived line of clean/dirty. It’s what gives him an edge.
“I think good and great players don’t think about it,” Suh said of the possibility of getting fined or flagged. “And I think of myself as an up and coming player. When I have the opportunity to take a running back down or a quarterback down, I try to do that as fast I can – just play as hard and fast as possible.”
Fellow players seem to understand that mentality better than fans and media.
“You can’t fault someone for making hard football plays, and that’s what we’re coached to do, also,” Unger said.
Suh’s 31/2 sacks are far from eye-popping, but his presence is a factor. He’s the focus of a defensive line featuring Cliff Avrill, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley that is one of the best the Seahawks will face, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
“All the way across, all four of them – they all have great skills, they all have some nastiness to them, they’re very tenacious, they keep coming,” Bevell said. “It’s a good group.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who revels in physical defensive play, was complimentary of the Lions’ front four.
“They’re very active and they have terrific speed,” Carroll said. “They come like crazy from the ends and they’re aggressive as you can be up the middle, too. There’s no soft spot or any weakness here.”
The Seahawks’ offensive line must try to find ways to protect Wilson and also open up running room for running back Marshawn Lynch. If it can’t, the offense will be in disarray.
“If you don’t take care of the front four it’ll screw up the whole game,” Bevell said. “We have a conscious effort to make sure we take care of those guys. They have a lot of trust and confidence that those guys can get it done, and they have. We have to make sure we take of business of up there.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org @RyanDivish