As far as Ndamukong Suh can tell, there's a fine line between a good, aggressive play and a penalty.
After a season-and-a-half of flags and fines, Detroit's star defensive tackle met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday. Suh requested the session in New York at NFL headquarters, and both he and Goodell said the visit was productive.
On Wednesday, Suh spoke with reporters at Detroit's practice facility and said he doesn't expect to alter his style.
"I'm not going to change the way I play," Suh said. "I feel that the way I'm playing and the way I have played in the past is continuing to play within the rules."
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh was drafted No. 2 overall out of Nebraska before last season. Since then, his rough play has led to $42,500 in fines.
Suh wonders if his power — which looks effortless at times — might work against him.
"I'm just a different breed. I hate to say that, but it's kind of like, no athlete in the NFL is like any other person," Suh said. "You can't treat everybody the same exact way. That would be unfair, but there's guidelines that everybody needs to follow behind, so that's more or less the understanding that I needed to see."
According to STATS, LLC, Suh was penalized 10 times as a rookie, including twice for unnecessary roughness, once for a facemask, once for roughing the passer and once for a horse-collar tackle.
Through the first half of this season, he's been penalized four times, including once for a facemask, once for roughing the passer and once for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"You look at Tom Brady. When he gets hit, you always wonder if there's going to be a flag. There's certain things that may be called for him that may not be called for other quarterbacks just because of his stature or whatever, how he is in the league," Suh said.
"That's the same thing with defensive players. I think my hits may look a little bit different because of the type of strength and athleticism that I have, compared to some other defensive linemen. It's just the way the world works."
The Lions are off to a 6-2 start and have an open date this weekend.
Goodell said after the meeting that there was video evidence showing that Suh has "made the adjustments to play consistently within the rules."
Suh wasn't too specific about what was discussed but seemed grateful for the opportunity to talk to Goodell.
"Once you go through something, you've got to learn from it, whether it's good or bad," Suh said. "I'm the type of person that doesn't like to repeat mistakes, and that was the main thing, more or less, that he was emphasizing. I haven't really made any of the same mistakes that I have made in the past."
Suh was the only rookie on the All-Pro team last season and is the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He had 10 sacks last season, and although he has only three this season, coach Jim Schwartz says Suh's impact is still being felt.
"He's been good at the point of attack. He's been good on the backside. He has made some big plays in short yardage. He's been around the quarterback," Schwartz said. "It's not always about the sack numbers, but let's make no mistake, where he is sack-wise is pretty good for a defensive tackle in the NFL, with three over the first eight games."
Detroit's defense is also ranked No. 1 in the league in third-and-short situations. In fact, on third-and-less-than-4, opponents have converted only twice in eight rushing attempts. Only 7 of 16 passing plays against the Lions in those situations have resulted in conversions.
"We definitely pride ourselves on that. That's something (defensive line coach) Kris Kocurek — he puts that in our head," Avril said. "I think even from last year, one of the biggest things to him was: They don't run the ball in short yardage against us."
Suh's presence helps the Lions tremendously in that regard, and after his meeting with Goodell, he hopes to be a major force in the years to come — without hurting his team or his bank account with penalties.
"Nobody in this world agrees on everything," Suh said. "What did I learn that I didn't already know? Kind of the ins and outs of the way officiating, they kind of look at things and perceive things — and honestly, how the fines are assessed."