When it comes to whether a football player meant to hit a defenseless player in the head or neck area, the NFL doesn’t care about intent. When it comes to whether Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh intended to put his foot in the crotch of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, the NFL suddenly does.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday night at a Lions-related charity event that the league has found it difficult to determine whether Suh intended to kick Schaub in the groin area, according to the Associated Press.
That may be true, but Suh apparently intended to kick Schaub somewhere.
The unnatural shove of the leg shows that Suh, knowing his leg was in the vicinity of Schaub, wanted to strike the quarterback with the bottom of Suh’s shoe. When engaging in that kind of intentional conduct, it shouldn’t matter whether the player intended to hit the opponent in the knee or in the nuts.
For the NFL, the damage often drives the punishment. Jets guard Matt Slauson wouldn’t have been fined if his arguably legal block on Texans linebacker Brian Cushing hadn’t torn Cushing’s ACL. And Broncos linebacker Joe Mays surely wouldn’t have been suspended for a game if his helmet-to-helmet hit on Schaub hadn’t knocked Schaub’s helmet off his head, along with a piece of his ear.
In those situations, the NFL doesn’t want to hear that the defensive player didn’t intend harm. So why does it matter now?
Maybe Goodell was simply treading lightly before a pro-Lions crowd. Or maybe the league office has gone soft during the fledgling holiday season. Either way, there’s a looming discrepancy between what the NFL does to guys who are trying to do their jobs and guys who are deliberately going beyond the confines of the rules.