When Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a personal foul for a hit on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday, the reactions ranged from Bears general manager Jerry Angelo calling for Suh to be ejected to Lions coach Jim Schwartz screaming at the officials that the hit didn't deserve to be penalized at all.
Now the league office has weighed in, confirming that it believes Suh crossed the line by fining him $15,000.
"I'm not surprised by that one," Cutler said Wednesday.
Although the fine is not a shock -- fines for personal fouls are the norm, especially when the player on the receiving end of the hit is a quarterback -- it is a little hard for the Lions to stomach, because what actually transpired on the field doesn't match up with what referee Ed Hochuli said he was penalizing. Hochuli said he flagged Suh for a shot to the back of Cutler's head, but replays showed that Suh was actually shoving Cutler in the back, near the top of his shoulder pads. That's a completely legal hit, especially considering that Cutler was running on the play, and quarterbacks who are running with the ball are allowed to be hit the same way as running backs.
So why did this play draw a flag and a fine, when defensive players routinely hit running backs in the back without drawing the wrath of the officials or the league?
One man's opinion: Suh's hit wasn't dirty, it just looked dirty, because he's such a physical freak of nature that even a fairly routine hit from him can send a player like Cutler hurtling to the ground. Even by the standards of NFL defensive tackles, Suh is a monster -- he was among the most impressive physical specimens at the 2010 scouting combine, and he casually revealed in an ESPN interview this week that he typically works out with 485 pounds on the bench-press bar. What feels to Suh like just shoving a runner down looks to the observer like an act of violence.
But if anything, Suh was easing up as he hit Cutler at the end of Cutler's run, and if Suh had really wanted to hurt Cutler, he could have jumped on top of him and not just pushed him to the ground.
Suh hasn't been completely innocent in his NFL career; during the preseason he hit Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme with a vicious cheap shot. But in this case, Suh was just doing what defensive players are supposed to do, and the NFL overreacted in its attempt to protect quarterbacks.