ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Dominic Raiola did this to himself.
That is the easiest way to explain why the longtime Detroit Lions center was suspended Monday for one of the biggest games of his 14-year career in Detroit -- a NFC North title game against the Green Bay Packers.
Raiola’s history as well as Sunday’s stomp on Ego Ferguson’s ankle led the NFL to make this move as the league cited his six safety-related violations since 2010 as part of the reason for the suspension. That he stomped on the ankle of the Chicago defensive lineman and then insisted afterward it was unintentional was just the last in a string of incidents.
Even though Raiola called it unintentional, the league clearly saw it differently, and barring a reversal on appeal at his hearing Tuesday, he will sit for the Lions on Sunday against the Packers. And he can’t blame anyone else for it.
Earlier this season, Raiola was caught taking a swing at the back of the head of New England defensive lineman Zach Moore -- drawing a fine of $10,000. He wasn’t fined for the initial play that caught people’s attention at first, which was a cut block on Moore when the Detroit Lions were kneeling for the game's final play.
Raiola was unapologetic then, and though he apologized to Ferguson and other Chicago players this time, it wasn’t enough for him to avoid a suspension.
Last season, he had to apologize and make a donation to the Wisconsin marching band after making inappropriate comments toward them during the Green Bay-Detroit game. He also used an obscene gesture and got into a verbal altercation with a fan in Miami in 2010 -- costing him $15,000 -- and was fined $7,500 in 2008 for making an inappropriate gesture to a Lions fan after the team dropped to 0-13.
So Raiola has acted this way from time-to-time for a long time, and it finally caught up to him at one of the worst times for the Detroit Lions, as they get ready for one of the biggest games in franchise history.
It also calls into question where the Lions sit with discipline right now. Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been fairly strong on disciplining his players so far this season, having suspended Brandon Pettigrew for a quarter against Tampa Bay for a violation of team rules and suspending Joique Bell for the first quarter of Sunday’s game against Chicago for a violation of team rules.
He also sent C.J. Mosley home from London and suspended him for two weeks for a violation of team rules.
Those were off-field issues, though, and they are something Caldwell talks about with his team constantly.
"Every week," Caldwell said. "It’s kind of where the high cost for low living comes in, so you cover the gamut and you’ve got to keep it before them."
Now, Caldwell can use Raiola’s actions as another teaching point -- to play cleaner on the field. This was even an issue for Detroit on Sunday beyond Raiola’s stomp. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he made contact with the head of Chicago quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was found to have a concussion after the game, likely stemming from Ansah’s illegal hit, and already has been ruled out for the Bears' finale against Minnesota.
Typically, there is not much of a reason to make a big deal about penalties, especially considering Seattle, New England and Denver have all committed more infractions than the Lions this season. But Caldwell has made a point of saying any more than three penalties a game is too much.
That’s a mark Detroit has yet to hit this season. Now, after the most experienced player in the locker room is missing perhaps the biggest game of his career because of on-field shenanigans, Caldwell can use it to bring home his point even more.
Play clean on the field. Do things right off of it. Otherwise, there will be consequences, as the Detroit Lions have continued to find out throughout the season.