ALLEN PARK, Mich. Ndamukong Suh has Hall of Fame potential, but will he fulfill it?
He appeared to be on the fast track during his rookie year only to take a step back last season.
How he performs in this his third year quite possibly will indicate which is the real Suh, and whether hes going to live up to the hype generated by being the No. 2 pick overall in the 2010 Draft.
There were legitimate reasons for concern a year ago. His sacks dropped from 10 in 16 games during his 2010 rookie season to four in 14 games. His combined tackles went from 48 to 26.
Suh was still a good NFL defensive tackle, no question about that.He just didn't showthe dominance that was expected and neededby the Lions.
Too often he seemed like someonedistracted. He got caught up in his bad-boy on-the-field image that led to a two-game suspension for his highly-publicized foot stomp against an offensive lineman in the Green Bay game on Thanksgiving.
From afar, you also had to wonder whether he had gotten a little too drunk on his own notoriety overall.
His recent appearance on a reality datingshow did nothing to quiet suggestions that Suh might be as focused on becoming a celebrity outside of football as he is with the game itself.
Anyone with those concerns, however, should be encouraged. Ultimately,Suh will be judged by his performance beginning Sept. 9 against the St. Louis Rams, buthe arrived for training camp sounding like a player who recognizes that heneeded to make some changes.
Words arent going to put him back on the Hall-of-Fame track, but in this case, they could be a good first step.
In the past, Suh had simply said he was indifferent about his performance last year. This time, it was clear that he had done some serious self-evaluation over the offseason.
I didnt like my approach now that I look back on that particular season, especially compared to my rookie season, Suh said.
He was asked to clarify what he thought was lacking.
Its really kind of the mindset and my particular goals when focusing on the correct things, he said. Theres really some foundational things in my game I need to focus on before I can get to obviously the exciting pieces of making sacks and doing all those particular things.
In other words, he needs to do the little things better, improve his fundamentals and master the techniques of his position, to become that consistent big-play guy in the end.
My attention to detail has increased,"Suh said. "I think that will be an adding factor to help me be the player I want to be.
I hold myself to a higher standard. I expect more from myself. I plan to be like guys Ive seen play, Warren Sapp, Mean Joe Greene. You know them for a reason. Those are memorable names for what theyve done on the football field and what they stand for.
Suh wouldnt totally open up about what hes been doing to try tofix what took him off course last season.
Asked to be more specific about his different approach, Suh replied, Ive got to keep that to myself. Theres a little bit more into that that I dont necessarily want to share.
And when asked if he had gotten advice during the off-season from a former player or any other outside source, Suh said: Maybe, maybe not. Well just have to wait and see after the season. Then Ill tell you.
Suh likes to remain a little mysterious at times, but the fact he isnt in denial about his shortcomings from last year and is determined to make corrections, appears to be a good sign for the Lions and for his future.
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham plans to move Suh around on the line rather than lining him up in just one spot.
It could be just what Suh needs to take his game to another level and toget back todouble-digit sack seasons.
I think it will be definitely effective, Suh said. Just from the simple fact that people dont know where were going to be. We might line up and go somewhere else. Theres some fun things you get to do when you move around. Im excited about that.
Heappears to be refocused, reenergizedand ready to reload.
If so,the real Suhmight be better than anything we've seen to this point.