It'd be understandable if Jay Cutler has a recurring nightmare in which a 6-foot-4, 307-pound monster with a No. 90 on his chest causes pure mayhem. It is Cutler who has been victimized by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh more than any other NFL quarterback.
Suh delivered a big hit on Cutler during Monday night's game in Chicago, which marks the third time in less than two years that Suh has completely rocked Cutler. As is customary, Suh is now facing some heat, perhaps none more blazing than that from Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Marshall expressed his displeasure with Suh's latest blow after the game via Twitter and then again on ESPN First Take on Tuesday. The veteran wideout found the hit to be dirty, which is a label that has been commonly associated with Suh over the course of his three-year NFL career. But while Suh has hardly been a model citizen since the Lions made him the second overall pick out of Nebraska in 2010, it's hits like the one he laid on Cutler on Monday night that prove just out of favor he's fallen amongst many players, fans and analysts.
Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2011 -- a title the 25-year-old couldn't care less about holding, no matter how much negativity accompanies it.
"People are always going to have their opinions," Suh said following Monday's hit. "It's not going to hurt my feelings."
Suh's feelings are hardly hurt, but the same can't be said for many others, including Marshall, who feel that the young lineman needs to tone down his game. That's simply what happens when you play recklessly on a consistent basis. After checking out Monday's incident again, though, it's clear that Suh's reputation has already become the overriding factor when determining whether the lineman is acting with malice on any given tackle.
Monday night's hit on Cutler was hard. It was also unique and actually quite vicious, as it's not every day you see a QB get slammed to the ground so violently. But to say it was "dirty" and that Suh should be disciplined would involve placing most of the emphasis on his reputation rather than the incident itself. That's problematic, and it should be the incident that's weighed most heavily, with Suh's reputation then take into account.
To his credit, Suh tried to dispel the notion that he was going after Cutler with ill intent on Monday.
were no harsh words between us,'' Suh said after the Lions' loss. "I
wanted to make sure he was good. I'm never a person to injure anybody
and take anybody out of the game.
"That's why I checked on him
when he was there on the ground. I asked one of his people if he was OK.
He got up, ran by me, hit me in my stomach and told me he was fine. And
later on, I checked on him again."
Saying the right thing and pleading innocence don't mean much when it comes to big hits, but it's at least a step in the right direction for a guy who typically makes no apologies for his hard-nosed brand of football.
The biggest gripe with Monday's hit might be the leg-sweeping motion, the forearm near the neck area or the aggression Suh seems to show in driving Cutler to the turf. More likely, though, it's the fact that we've seen questionable behavior from Suh before.
Sure, it's fine to take into consideration the constant nightmare that is Ndamukong Suh's style of play, but let's not lose sleep over this particular incident. Unfortunately, Brandon Marshall already has.