One of the lamest questions the sports talk shows Barbaro’d this week was whether Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player. The “dirty” accusations stemmed from Suh wrestling Andy Dalton to the ground during a preseason game last week (video here). It wasn’t the first time Suh ripped the head off a quarterback (remember this video?), but it’s hard for me to view the Dalton play as evidence supporting the claim that Suh is dirty. As far as I can see it, that play happened legally within the flow of the game.
In order to determine whether Suh is a dirty player, you must first define “dirty.” When I think of a dirty player, I think of someone who delivers late hits. I think of someone who constantly hits people in the knees, head, or nuts. I think of someone who jumps into a pile late. That’s what being a dirty player means to me. A player who hits hard and relentlessly pursues quarterbacks is not dirty.
One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the NFL enforcing penalties and fines against defensive players is that they don’t take into consideration the context of a play. They don’t realize that players are going full speed and that many hard hits happen by accident. Defensive players have one mindset: kill the quarterback. If they pause to think about late hits, they won’t get the sack. I’m not saying a blatantly late hit is acceptable, but I am saying if a player has wrapped up the quarterback, I expect him to finish the tackle.
Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham made the same argument in support of his star player.