Ndamukong Suh Hasn't Been Punished for Thanksgivingate 2.0.... Yet.
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 26, 2012
UPDATE, 4:35PM 11/26/12: The NFL has announced that Suh will not be suspended for his actions Thursday, which proves that, even given Ndamukong Suh's history and reputation, it's impossible to assess intent via videotape. He may still be fined.
If it had been any other player, the accidental contact defense might have been easier to swallow. A defensive end, blocked in pursuit of the opposing quarterback, falls to the ground with his leg upended. As gravity does its thing and brings his foot back toward the ground, said foot makes direct contact with the quarterback's... intimate area. Stuff happens, right?
If it's Ndamukong Suh, recently voted by his peers as the "dirtiest player in the NFL" in an informal Sporting News poll, stuff doesn't just happen; the benefit of the doubt is not afforded. As far as the general public, media and (likely) NFL football operations are concerned, anyway. Since it was Suh's foot connecting with Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's business in Thursday's Thanksgiving matchup, the contact isn't likely to be dismissed as incidental. CBS commentator Phil Simms was quick to defend the action as accidental, but his colleagues at CBS' NFL Today had a different response during their halftime discussion. Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason had some choice words in particular, asserting that Suh's kick was intentional and that he, as a former football player, wouldn't want to shake Suh's hand. He proceeded to tweet:
I have seen the replay 50x of Suh's annual Thanksgiving kick. No doubt it was intentional.#disgraceful— Boomer Esiason (@7BOOMERESIASON) November 22, 2012
Members of the Texans organization have also expressed their disgust with the foot-to-crotch contact; head coach Gary Kubiak shared Friday that "I didn't like it. Obviously, I let the official know." In a local Houston AM radio interview this morning, quarterback/kick recipient Schaub declared that he wouldn't want Suh as a teammate, going so far as to say “the stuff that he stands for and the type of player he is, that’s not Houston Texan worthy. That’s not what we’re about.”
For his part, Suh has declined to address the media on the matter. If his refusal to acknowledge last Thanksgiving's plain-as-day stomp on Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith as intentional is any indication, it's not unreasonable to assume Suh would take a similar route in response to this season's indiscretion. In spite of last season's protestations, the NFL suspended Suh two games for the stomp, which begs the question: will Suh receive a suspension in 2012?
Whether or not Suh meant to kick Schaub, opinions will be colored by last year's stomping incident.
Ray Anderson, the League's executive vice president for football operations, has asserted that the play will be reviewed. He mentioned that player history does factor into reviews, before elaborating that "from my personal point of view, it was unusual, to say the least. Don't know if it was a football move I've ever seen."
That perspective is what could ultimately lead to Suh's downfall. It was a bizarre, little-if-ever-seen football move. So whether or not the act was out of malice or a total accident, Suh's reputation (no matter how fairly earned) will likely color any interpretation of Thanksgiving's transgression. When Baltimore safety Ed Reed was first issued a one-game suspension for a Week 11 helmet-to-helmet hit against Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders on the basis of repeat offenses, the NFL set a standard for its 2012 self. Reed, who didn't launch himself in the course of the hit, won on appeal and had the suspension reduced to a $50,000 fine, but a precedent was established nonetheless. Whether the NFL will uphold the repeat offender standard in Suh's case remains to be seen; whether a suspension is merited remains a matter of of opinion, much like any interpretation of the kick itself.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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