NFL Network showed up to film the Lions’ player-led workouts today, and for the first time, Ndamukong Suh showed up to participate. I’ll let the various reporters’ Twitter feeds break it down from there:
Several fans, including longtime friends of TLiW @jacoblrussell and @Dustin_aka_D, were taken aback by this news. Was Ndamukong Suh big-timing the local media? Was he making a phony show of being a great teammate for the national media? Is his “awesome guy” persona just that—a thin façade covering a monstrous ego?
As if the lockout weren’t reminder enough, there are two words in the phrase “professional football,” and the first word means it’s their job. These men are paid to do a job, the same as you. Some players see talking to the media as an essential part of that job. Some see it as an annoyance. Some see it as a necessary evil. Some see it as an opportunity to get their face in front of your eyes, when they play a game where everyone’s head is covered. Most see it as some combination of the above, varying by circumstances and mood.
Chris McCosky, Paula Pasche, Dave Birkett, and Tom Kowalski are professionals, too. It’s their job to cover the Lions, to come up with fresh angles, to get good quotes, to keep us informed, to tell good stories, and keep us coming back for more. In the midst of a lockout, such stories have been incredibly difficult to come by—and Ndamukong Suh showing up to the voluntary workouts is, relatively speaking, compelling stuff. Add in a decent quote or two, and that’s a real actual football story they can write, and we can read. To get blown off after doing on the heels spot for the national media . . . it’s understandably upsetting.
It's tempting, as fans, to overreact to this, and assign all sorts of motivation and blame to Ndamukong Suh and his handlers—just like we assigned all sorts of motivation and blame when Suh didn’t immediately sign and report to camp. Remember all that hullabaloo? How Suh went from being the Best Guy Ever to a no-good spoiled money-grubber in a matter of hours? How a few missed days of would leave him scrambling to catch up? How falling behind in his rookie year would set his development back months—or maybe years? How Lions fans took to Twitter and started hurling invective at Ndamukong and his sister, Ngum?
How’d that turn out?
The mild grumpiness I saw on Twitter about this incident wasn’t out-of-line. I thought it was a little out-of-character for Suh, too. But remember—part of what we love so much about Suh is his intelligence, his personality, his self-awareness, his selflessness, his engineering degree, his marketability, and his ability to be represent the franchise. He’s so much more than a monster between the hash marks; that’s what makes him special. He realizes that people across the nation associate him with the Lions, and the Lions with him—and he needs to maintain that relationship in our minds. He’s taking care of himself and his family first—and c’mon. We all know he’ll be ready for football when football happens, whether he’s pumping iron in Detroit or Lincoln or Portland or Belgrade.
So, don’t crucify Suh for this. It’s one little tiny spot on an otherwise spotless record so far. This doesn’t make him a prima donna or a problem child or Just Like Big Baby or any of that. It’s just another day at the office.