Despite overturning Ndamukong Suh’s one-game suspension for stepping on the leg of Aaron Rodgers, hearing officer Ted Cottrell is not convinced that Suh was innocent.
In a letter to Suh explaining the decision to allow Suh to play on Sunday but fine him $70,000, a copy of which PFT has obtained, Cottrell makes clear that he believes Suh knew he was standing on Rodgers’s leg.
“Although I accept that your feet may have been cold on a late December day in Green Bay, it is difficult for me to believe that you did not feel Aaron Rodgers’ leg under you as you stepped on him twice,” Cottrell wrote. “While you may not have consciously intended to cause injury to the opposing player that you stepped on, I nonetheless believe that you could have avoided—and had the responsibility to avoid—making such dangerous contact with your opponent’s leg—twice. Your conduct was a clear violation of the Playing Rules and was outside the normal course of the game of football. It must be emphasized that illegal acts that jeopardize the safety of other players, as was certainly the case here, will not be tolerated in this League.”
So why did Cottrell overturn the suspension? Because he was swayed not only by speaking directly to Suh but by hearing from Suh’s representatives and from the Lions, who felt that the entire franchise would be punished if one of its best players was barred from a playoff game.
“Several of your representatives, including personnel from the Lions, argued that the impact of your suspension would have a devastating effect on you, your teammates and coaches, as well as Lions fans,” Cottrell wrote.
Ultimately, Cottrell seems to believe that Suh is a good man who has made mistakes, not a dirty player who sets out to injure his opponents.
“I think you were sincere when you said that you respect the game, and have listened to the advice of your coaches, as well as that of Troy Vincent during his visit with you in the offseason,” Cottrell wrote. “Based on your representations, I am willing to give you the benefit of doubt that you did not intend to injure your opponent. However, the seriousness of this offense, the potential for injury, and my conclusion that it was avoidable, demands substantial discipline. For those reasons, I am reducing your one game suspension without pay to a fine in the amount of $70,000.”
That’s a decision that will satisfy Suh, the Lions and Lions fans. Fans of many other teams — especially the Cowboys — won’t be so pleased that Suh is playing on Sunday.