ALLEN PARK, MI - JULY 30: Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions takes a break during training camp at the Lions facility on July 30, 2011 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Is Ndamukong Suh dirty? Some people think so and Suh says not until his momma says so, but it really depends on how you define dirty.
I don't think Ndamukong Suh is dirty like he's unkempt or he's some kind of sordid beast.
It's sort of like when Sue -- not Suh, Sue -- told Trent in Swingers he was being unbelievable, in the negative sense, and Trent responded, "you're right, I am unbelievable." If someone says Suh is dirty, I think you can safely respond, "you're right, Suh is dirty," because the positive, slang connotation of 'dirty' is the only way one can justifiably refer to the Lions' second year All-Pro defensive tackle.
That didn't stop CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman from trying to paint Suh as the despicable kind of dirty, though. In a think piece published shortly after the Lions/Patriots preseason game -- in which Ndamukong Suh was caught on camera slapping at and grazing Logan Mankins' facemask, in response to Mankins' attempt to rip Suh's teammate Lawrence Jackson's head off -- Freeman leads with, "It's official: Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player," and goes on to say how the aforementioned incident was compromising Suh's reputation and would undoubtedly result in a fine.
Well, Suh wasn't fined.
And the only reason his reputation has been under scrutiny lately is because CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf blew the near whiff way out of proportion during the national broadcast, simultaneously brainwashing a columnist from a widely read website under the same brand name (and likely other viewers) into insistent conjecture.
The common support for calling Suh 'dirty' is that he has four personal foul penalties and three fines in one full season and a handful of preseason games. Freeman obviously factored in the swing on Mankins, but the overall evidence doesn't add up.
For starters, if Suh's personal fouls and fines provide the overriding premise to the claim that Suh is 'dirty,' then a play that resulted in neither a personal foul or a fine should not be the official tipping point. Especially since Freeman doesn't even agree with one of the personal fouls that produced a fine (the Jay Cutler shove). In fact, Freeman called it legal, right before contradicting himself by stating it was, "unnecessary and indicative of how Suh doesn't seem to understand the nuance of football." Um, what's necessary in football is to get the dude with the ball down on the ground and a push is typically acceptable American football procedure, assuming it's "legal." Again, Freeman conceded Suh's hit on Cutler was just that.
But it might be helpful to define what it actually means to be a dirty football player. It's almost redundant. After all, football is inherently a dirty, grueling game. If you're playing passive football, you're going to wind up hurt more times than not. Suh definitely plays aggressive and with a snarl, but CBS' Freeman wasn't trying to attach any endearing term to Suh. Suh would not have felt the need to defend himself if Freeman was simply trying to describe Suh as a normal, aggressive football player.
To me, the 'dirty' Freeman, and others around the NFL, tried to pin on Suh deals with whether or not he has some kind of underlying malicious intent or is knowingly neglecting the rules. I don't believe for a second that properly describes Suh.
He's not throwing unsolicited elbows, he's not chop blocking, he's not performing diving bulldogs or elbow drops, and he's not poking eyeballs out at the bottom of piles (to our knowledge). The yellow flags and pink slips against him were merely responses to an almost unprecedented, powerfully talented defensive tackle constantly dialing it up to the level of greatness itself.
The Jake Delhomme hit, personal foul, and subsequent fine was probably the most deserving of the Suh infractions and I still don't buy it that Suh did it with any real intent to actually decapitate him (although it certainly looked like it).
It's entirely plausible to consider that Suh might not know his own brute, like he's a really smart Lennie Small. It's utterly irrational to accuse him of being a dirty player, like he's someone playing with willful disregard for human life.
Suh's skill and strength makes him such a dominant force, it's easy to notice Suh terrorizing opponents, tossing them around like the lightest of Raggedy Ann dolls, but that doesn't make him a villain. It makes him a rare breed we should celebrate and almost undefinedly awesome, if I must say so myself.