ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ndamukong Suh insisted he would not let his lack of a contract beyond the 2014 season distract him at all throughout this season.
A week in, it would appear that he is being true to his word.
The fifth-year defensive tackle has left a strong impression on his new coaches and teammates during the first week as he has shown up exactly as they would have expected: Ready to play and focused on having a strong season.
“He’s outstanding,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “Being in the league, you watch him. You know he’s a great player. Then you get here and you have a chance to work with him and you see why he’s a great player.
“He works his tail off. He’s a true professional in every sense of the word and every time he comes out here to practice, he practices. He practices like you’re supposed to.”
That includes making life difficult for the Lions’ offensive line, something he has done often during the first week of practice as Detroit continues to pick up the offensive and defensive schemes. He has been in the backfield often during team periods -- even if it is a difficult situation for defensive linemen because they can’t hit quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore.
But to one observer at practice Tuesday, Suh remains the best defensive tackle in the league.
“If there’s one that’s better in the league, I want to see him, you know,” said former Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who was in town with his job on NFL Network. “And he can get better, too. He can still improve his technique and all of that and he’s around other good defensive linemen, so they can’t just concentrate on Suh.”
That was supposed to be an attractive commodity last season as well, but teams still focused heavily on Suh in the Wide 9 defensive scheme the Lions used that resulted in little blitzing and a dearth of sacks. Earlier in the offseason, team president Tom Lewand said the Lions built their defense around a strong defensive line -- one that now features three first-round picks in Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, along with contributors Jason Jones, Devin Taylor and C.J. Mosley in heavy rotation.
All those players except for Jones -- who was injured -- had roles last season. So despite the talent on the line, the Lions managed only 33 sacks last season and had seven games with less than two sacks as a team.
That should change this season, as the Lions are going to be a defense that sends much more pressure from a variety of different spots -- not just the defensive line. Last season, Detroit blitzed only 19.6 percent of the time.
“It’s fun. Obviously we have a new regime here and a new coordinator,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “We can get after it a little bit more. We can fly around and make plays.”
That begins with the defensive line being able to gain pressure both on its own and with the aid of the blitz. And any defensive line talk begins with Suh, who is a dominant player in the middle.
It was the entirety of the defensive line that stood out to Mariucci on Tuesday, though.
“Starting with that defensive line in their individual period, I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time,” Mariucci said. “It’s a talented group with a lot of energy getting well coached.
“That’s a scary defensive line.”
And one that needs to play up to its talent level for the Lions to have success this season.