Suh's just better than you

Surgeon general warnings are used to protect those who put their bodies at risk. Advisements not to operate machinery while under the influence of alcohol or informing people of the health risks of smoking are just a few.

There should also be one on the back of Ndamukong Suh's helmet, because he can cause harm and atrophy to someone's body as well.

Suh is the centerpiece of the Detroit Lions' defense and is known for his aggressive nature. But lately, he's been criticized for his demeanor on the field, though football is a contact sport the last time I checked . If there were a syllabus to playing football, contained animosity would be a requisite along with other traits that fall under the toughness category.

Having been flagged a few times this season and in his career for being what some officials deem as overly hostile, Suh is a throwback and often displays the type of will and determination players like Dick Butkus, Deacon Jones, Jack Lambert and Ronnie Lott once exhibited in their heyday. Jack Tatum would turn over in his grave if he knew how some of today's defenders were being assessed for their rough manner.

So Suh, who said himself he's a different breed of player, made the decision to sit down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week to get a better grasp of what his role should be on the gridiron. In topics ranging from specific plays to penalties, Suh said he came out of the meeting with a better understanding of what's asked of him as an NFL defensive tackle.

"I am the type of person that doesn't like to repeat mistakes and that was the main thing more or less that [Goodell] was emphasizing, that I haven't really made any of the same mistakes that I've made in the past," Suh said. "I feel that the way I am playing, the way I have played in the past is to continue to play within the rules and just have an understanding of what [officials] look for."

Suh said after the Lions' rout of Denver on Oct. 30 he won't change his intentions and will maintain the edge that made him a top draft pick in 2010. Adhering to the rules should not be a problem from now on, and it really never was an issue for Suh, whose full-time job is putting grown men on their back, head, shoulder or any other body part. It's not a conventional vocation, but some people come from a different mold than others.

The Lions shouldn't have any problem with how their prized defensive tackle represents the organization either, because they're winning football games for the first time in a long time. Head coach Jim Schwartz, a defensive-minded individual, and team president Tom Lewand accompanied Suh to meet with the league office and clearly want what's best for their player. Both men had to have chuckled when reviewing some of Suh's plays that revealed several quarterbacks getting tossed around like a rag doll.

Schwartz did not comment after the meeting, saying it's up to Suh and the NFL to air their differences.

One clip that comes to mind is Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler getting shoved to the turf by Suh last season as if both teams were playing in someone's backyard or a nearby field with trees as end-zone markers. Street ball is where it starts for many of those who dream of reaching the NFL and following in the footsteps of the great ones.

Having the ability to intimidate opposing offensive lineman is also a special gift, one that comes early and is fostered with the right attitude, hard work and some help along the way. We'll just have to wait and see how Suh approaches the game now that he has a better feel for what the league is asking of him.

"I have gained a better understanding how I need to continue to play the game to help my team win," Suh said in a statement. "I look forward to the rest of the season and the doing everything we can to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Detroit."

Suh will no doubt keep his killer instinct as he tries to eliminate the opposition within the guidelines of the NFL.

The Lions have a bye this week and face a tough second-half schedule, including a date with Green Bay on Thanksgiving, and need Suh to be his usual self in order to compete. Whether a quarterback gets banged around a bit too much along the way is up to the officials.


Running backs Tim Biakabutuka, Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster were once proud workhorses for the Carolina Panthers. They set the offense in motion and quarterbacks such as Kerry Collins or Jake Delhomme would do the rest.

Now it's the other way around for the Panthers, with rookie quarterback Cam Newton taking the reins and headlines away from backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. For the pair's sake, Newton's success softened some of the criticism the Panthers' ground game received early on.

Newton has the Panthers fifth in both passing yards per game and total offense. The team is only one of five in the NFL averaging more than 400 yards per game, and Newton is doing it with both his arm and legs. Entering this weekend's play, Newton is second in the league with 2,393 passing yards, just ahead of perfectionists Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, though both have played in one less game.

That's still pretty impressive for a rookie, who is also second among quarterbacks with 319 rushing yards and a team-best seven rushing touchdowns.

Now with the bye week in full effect, Carolina head coach Ron Rivera can evaluate what the rest of the team needs to work on.

"We're going to go through what we've done the first eight weeks and see what has been working, what hasn't been working, what needs to be improved," the first-year head coach said. "It's going to give us a great opportunity to evaluate our entire roster. We'll take a step back and look at each guy individually, talk about each guy individually.

"I'll also get an opportunity to visit with each of the coordinators and talk about what we're doing."

Running backs coach John Settle may not be at ease during this off week even, though the Panthers' ground game has improved somewhat over the past month or so. Through the first three weeks of the season Williams was averaging 20.3 yards per game, but has posted an average of 60.4 over the last five weeks. Stewart is averaging 49.3 rushing yards a contest over the past six games after combining for only 31 yards through the first two weeks of action.

The Panthers are currently seventh in rushing, registering 129.6 yards per game, thanks in part to Newton's breakout campaign. But going to the air has been the team's motto, and wide receiver Steve Smith is enjoying quite a productive year with 918 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 46 catches. He is on pace to break the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time since 2008, when he recorded his fourth straight campaign of reaching that mark. Smith has already matched his reception total from a season ago.

Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, helped Newton join Peyton Manning (1998) as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with at least four 290-yard passing efforts in a season in a loss versus Minnesota last week. Newton has completed 174 of his 287 attempts for 2,393 yards -- the most ever by a rookie in NFL history through eight games -- and thrown for 11 touchdowns.

The Panthers, who have sustained many injuries to the defense, will try to get their potent offense back in gear when they return to the field Nov. 13 versus Tennessee. With the playoffs are pretty much an afterthought right now in Carolina, the focus will soon shift to a more hopeful and healthy 2012.