Suh Given (Almost) Free Pass

Rather than being suspended for the playoff game at Dallas, Detroit's Ndamukong Suh was issued a $70,000 fine for stepping on Aaron Rodgers. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can play in Detroit's NFC Wild Card game after his one-game NFL suspension was reduced to a $70,000 fine.

Hearing officer Ted Cottrell heard Suh's expedited appeal Tuesday and ruled that Suh can play Sunday at Dallas but must pay the fine.

Suh was suspended for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' left leg twice last Sunday in a loss to Green Bay for the NFC North title. He stepped on Rodgers once with each foot, which violated unnecessary roughness rules, according to the league.

But Cottrell, jointly appointed by the NFL and the players' union, rescinded the suspension.

“It will be interesting to see what happens with the appeal,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show with ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde before Tuesday’s ruling. “The only thing I can say is if you step on something in your everyday life or if you step on somebody on the field, the first reaction seems to be looking back and maybe apologizing with your hands or maybe pulling your foot back right away. I’m just not sure that’s what happened on Sunday.”

The Lions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With Suh’s 8.5 sacks and 21 tackles for losses, the ruling is great news for the Lions in their bid to upset the third-seeded Cowboys. If Dallas wins, it will play at Green Bay on Jan. 11. If Detroit wins, the Lions go to Seattle and the Packers will host the winner of the Arizona-Carolina game. Considering the Cowboys are 8-0 on the road and 12-4 overall, and the Cardinals are down to their No. 3 quarterback and the Panthers finished with a losing record, the NFL’s ruling probably isn’t the worst news for the Packers — no matter how upset they are at Suh.

Suh has a long list of fines and one previous suspension, for two games in 2011 for stepping on the right arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Suh has been fined eight times in his career, but this is the first in 2014.

Suh was fined $100,000 for an illegal block on Vikings center John Sullivan in Week 1 of 2013 during an interception return. That was the largest fine in NFL history for on-field conduct, not counting suspensions. According to the Detroit Free Press, Suh’s fines have totaled more than $450,000 for his career.

The suspension was imposed Monday by Merton Hanks, the NFL's vice president of football operations. Hanks ruled that Suh engaged in a non-football act that placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury.

In his letter to Suh, Hanks wrote, "You did not respond in the manner of someone who had lost his balance and accidentally contacted another player who was lying on the ground. This illegal contact, specifically the second step and push off with your left foot, clearly could have been avoided."

Hanks further noted "you unnecessarily stepped on your opponent's unprotected leg as he lay on the ground unable to protect himself."

Cottrell's decision means the Lions will have one of their key defensive cogs. Suh finished the season with a team-high 8 1/2 sacks and helped Detroit rank second overall and first in run defense.

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