You don't grow up in the metro Detroit area without at least a slight appreciation for physical athletics. The Pistons defined tough, gritty, and mean in the late '80s and early '90s, and the Red Wings have had their fair share of rugged characters, as well.
These types of players resonate with fans in the Motor City because they represent the people there. They scrap, claw, and fight to get ahead. They help define a city which was built on this mentality.
Ndamukong Suh could easily be the next great engine that drives sports in Motown. He is an enormous, imposing, physical athlete who also happens to be intelligent and articulate. Suh is the perfect combination of brawn and brains to help bring success to a team and city desperately starving to taste prosperity.
Yet, he is missing the final piece needed to reach Isiah Thomas and Steve Yzerman-status. Suh lets his pride and emotions take precedence over team success.
I never thought Suh was a dirty player. I thought the reputation was formed out of the NFL continuously trying to cater to offenses by limiting the physicality of defenses. To me, Suh was aggressive not dirty.
On Thanksgiving Day that changed. When the Lions' defensive tackle deliberately stepped on Packers' offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-
Now, Suh faces the greatest challenge in his young career. He may never shed the reputation of being a dirty player. Some people will always label him as such, and there is not much he can do about it. But, a bigger concern for the second year defensive tackle is that he is losing his reputation as a leader.
His attempt at recreating a Kirk Franklin video not only got Suh kicked out of one of the Lions' biggest games of the year, but it also cost the defense a touchdown instead of a field goal and took the air out of Ford Field that was on the precipice of exploding with excitement.
Suh is the foundation of a very talented Detroit front line and should be able to guide them to years of success. But, you can't lead a team from the sidelines and that's where Suh finds himself after a selfish decision to exert toughness over self restraint.
The Lions head to New Orleans in a must win game on national TV against the Saints and will do so without their All-Pro.
The Pistons Bad Boys were despised. Bob Probert and Darren McCarty were hated. Yet, all were there for their teams when it was needed most.
Suh won't be.
When he returns from suspension, Suh must prove he is more committed to the team than himself by taming the thing that makes him so great, his aggression. Leaders adjust and Suh must. If he is able to do so, the Lions will thrive and his reputation of being dirty will be replaced by one of being a winner.