ALLEN PARK, Mich. You can make the argument that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh deserved to be on the Pro Bowl team, but its no surprise he didnt make it.
Hes just too widely disliked to win any type of popularity contest in a vote that is split up between players, coaches and fans.
Make no mistake, though, Suh has played to a Pro Bowl level during the last half of this season.
Despite his teams seven-game losing streak, Suh has been increasingly disruptive in recent weeks. He leads all NFC defensive tackles with seven sacks. His 19 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus, are the most by any defensive tackle in the league in at least five seasons.
San Franciscos Justin Smith and Chicagos Henry Melton were selected as the NFC starters at D-tackle, which is understandable. They have been standout players on two of the marquee defenses.
Tampa Bays Gerald McCoy, selected No. 3 overall and one spot behind Suh in the 2010 NFL Draft, was picked as the reserve behind Smith and Melton.
Suh had to settle for being named an alternate, which means he could be added to the roster if someone else is scratched.
Suh has had the better season statistically over McCoy, including two more sacks and six more tackles for loss.
But there are a lot of other factors that go into playing in the middle of a defensive line than just statistics. McCoy has helped make plays for his teammates, just like Suh has done for the Lions.
Youd have to watch both game-in and game-out, play after play, to make a fair assessment of who is truly more deserving because of the nature of their position.
Nevertheless, because of his reputation, Suh never stood a chance. Nobody in the league seems to get criticized on a weekly basis more than this guy.
Some of it is deserved, but some of it has gone a little too far at times, too. It just seems like the popular thing to do these days.
For the second straight year, Suh was voted as the dirtiest player in the league in a player poll conducted by the Sporting News.
An anonymous general manager told Pro Football Weekly that Suh belonged on the all-hype team.
An anonymous teammate allegedly told YAHOO that Suh is at the top of a list of Lions players who dont understand what it takes to win.
Meanwhile, Suh was ripped endlessly, including by CBS analysts Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe, after his controversial Thanksgiving Day kick to the groin of Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. Suh, who was falling head first to the turf when his foot came up and hit Schaub, didnt get suspended by the NFL but he was fined 30,000 for the incident. Schaub went on radio and said hed never want Suh as a teammate.
Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall also was critical of Suh for a hit on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during a game in October, even though Cutler and his coach, Lovie Smith, both said the play was legal.
And then theres Warren Sapp, one of the greatest defensive tackles in league history, who is constantly attacking Suh on the NFL Network.
Sapp has said that Suh has no awareness in how to play his position properly, hasnt evolved in three years in the league and fails to recognize screens and draws while only being worried about trying to rush the quarterback.
Sapp went so far as to say that Suh is just wasting his talent.
Put it all together and you have a player who seems to be the most despised man in the NFL.
Teammate Dominic Raiola recently stood up for Suh, praising his approach to the game and adding, Thats somebody I want on my team. Thats an NFL player.
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, like coach Jim Schwartz, also has defended Suh all season.
When Suh was the target of the unnamed sources, Cunningham joked, Boy, anonymous gets around doesnt he?
More seriously, Cunningham said of Suh, Hes exceptional. Hes a complete player. He is just causing havoc inside.
The Lions 4-11 record entering Sundays final game against Chicago certainly didnt help Suhs chances to overcome his bad-boy image in the Pro Bowl voting.
I feel like I havent done enough to really help us (win games), Suh said. I can still do more. Theres better things that I could do, making other guys around me better.
Suh was voted into the Pro Bowl as a starter two years ago as a rookie when he had 10 sacks and wasnt as disliked as he is now.
His performance regressed last season to the point that he was often being called one of the most overrated players in the league.
Its funny how that works. This year, hes back to being an impact type of player but not getting as much credit as he deserves for it.