NFL needs a better way to penalize dirty players

Marcus Traxler Editor-in-Chief

Ndamakong Suh is the dirtiest player in the NFL. 

This isn’t news. This is a fact. His presence on the Detroit Lions’ defensive line only strengthens that team’s ability to pick up personal foul penalties during the season and considering Jim Schwartz has never bothered to worry about the discipline of his players, we can count on the fact that Suh will likely strike again. 

So we shouldn’t have been surprised Sunday when Suh started his year off the only way he knows how: a stupid penalty. After Christian Ponder threw an interception (insert joke here) to Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, Suh negated a touchdown by illegally blocking Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan in the left knee. Sullivan weighs almost 300 pounds and the likelihood of Sullivan catching Levy was lower than my chances of replacing Ponder in the starting lineup this sunder. 

Two days later, the league fined Suh $100,000, the most that the league has ever fined anyone for something they did illegally on the field. The big fine was warranted – Suh has been fined five times prior to this season and he was suspended in 2011 for stomping Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving. Last November, he kicked Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin, so I mean this guy knows what he’s up to. 

I’m not bitter about Suh, although I’m thankful that Sullivan will be able to play this week against Chicago. Lord knows Minnesota will need him. What I am concerned about is how the NFL plans on stopping these types of plays. Unless there’s an ejection, the worst penalty that an offending team or player will feel during the game is a 15-yard penalty. Fining these players clearly isn’t getting it done and current New Orleans tight end Ben Watson agrees. He said this Sept. 9 on NFL Network: 

I mean we’re out here trying to work, we all have mouths to feed. We come to work every day hoping to go to a safe workplace, and he is making it a danger for a lot of guys, and his conduct needs to stop.”

It’s not just going to be stopping Suh. It’s all of the other morons doing this stuff. So I propose this: If a player commits an egregious personal foul away from the play or a dead ball penalty like fighting another player or punching a referee, the team is without a player for the rest of a possession. Or maybe the rest of the quarter or half.  I thought about the red card in soccer and its impact on the game and it’s significant. Far too significant to have for the whole game but let’s start making an impact. 

In Suh’s case on Sunday, the Lions would have kept the ball from the interception but would have had 10 players on the field. Not impossible to score but it would have given the Vikings an advantage, one they certainly should have if their Pro Bowl center is going to get his knee blown out. Keep the suspensions and the fines too but make the game on the field count as well. 

A potential downside is that football could turn into another sport where flopping is a skill. But fake injuries are better than real ones 10 out of 10 times. Compare it to a power play in hockey, where penalties often occur but the good teams will capitalize. It would be no different in football.

There’s a lot of players in the NFL who will never learn. So why shouldn’t the other team benefit from their stupidity?