ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ndamukong Suh almost made it through the entire season without controversy about the way he plays. Now, with one placement of his foot, the Detroit Lions defensive tackle will miss one of the team's biggest games in decades.
Suh was suspended Monday for one game -- the Lions' wild-card game against Dallas this weekend -- because he stepped on the ankle of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. In doing so, Suh's actions jeopardized Detroit's playoff hopes in the process.
Detroit now loses its best and most indispensable player -- the guy whom the Lions defense revolves around. For those who wondered what a post-Suh world might look like for Detroit in 2015 after he reaches free agency, the playoffs now become a preview for that at the worst possible time for this franchise.
This started when Rodgers fell to the ground and Suh’s feet found Rodgers’ calf and ankle. Twice. It all started after Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang blocked Suh as Rodgers was falling down behind both of them.
Both Lang and Suh were looking up the field at a completed pass to Jordy Nelson. Suh stepped backward and initially couldn’t have seen Rodgers lying on the ground. So the first step was apparently unintentional, based on getting balance.
It is the second one of Suh's two-step that got him in trouble. It was clear he felt his foot hit something when it came down on the play. That something was Rodgers. Then he stepped back again, right onto Rodgers' ailing calf and ankle and left it there for a moment before walking away.
Figuring that Suh's history with questionable play factored into this decision, it is clear why the league chose to act as it did even if in the pantheon of Suh missteps, this was not the most egregious.
It wasn’t as blatant or as obvious as the Evan Dietrich-Smith stomp in 2011. It wasn’t as vicious as the low block on John Sullivan last season or the slamming of Andy Dalton without a helmet in 2011. Those were all much more vicious and much more obvious than what happened at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The issue for Suh is the same as it was for center Dominic Raiola last week when he was suspended for the Green Bay game after stepping on Chicago defensive lineman Ego Ferguson's ankle. The benefit of the doubt has long since disappeared because of prior transgressions.
In Suh’s case, it vanished long ago, shredded for good against Green Bay in 2011 when he stomped on Dietrich-Smith, resulting in a two-game suspension and the semi-permanent bad boy image Suh now possesses.
Unlike Raiola after his stomp in Chicago, Suh did not talk with the media after Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, so it is unknown what he thought. But his coach, Jim Caldwell, called it unintentional. That would be worth something -- except Caldwell also called Raiola’s stomping on Ferguson unintentional last week, because that’s what Raiola told him. The league suspended Raiola anyway.
If it were other players in the league, there is a good chance the player might have been subjected to only a fine -- and that is where the benefit of the doubt comes in.
And the lack of the benefit of the doubt may be what costs the Detroit Lions their season.