Vikings contemplate NFL's discipline system

After Ndamukong Suh received a $100,000 fine for a low block on John Sullivan, Vikings players with a history of fines, like Jared Allen and Harrison Smith, responded to questions about fines versus suspensions, or a dollar amount that makes an impression.

The NFL's list of fines is extensive, with an emphasis on eliminating hits to the head. But Ndamukong Suh's repeated offenses for hits, kicks and stomps have garnered increased scrutiny.

Suh, the Detroit Lions defensive tackle that dove at the knee of Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan last Sunday, was fined $100,000 for the illegal low block, more than six times the minimum amount of $15,750 listed for a second offense on a low block.

The question is whether a $100,000 fine levied against a player that has already made $52 million in his career will change his behavior.

"Every guy is different, so you really never know. Guys make different huge scales of money, so something that affects one guy might not affect another guy as much," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "Playing time, guys always want to be on the field. To get suspended, I don't know when they want to do that. I think hitting guys in the pocketbooks is kind of the first thing they can do, so I think that's the easiest move. I think probably after that, suspension is the next thing. I feel like that's pretty much all you can do. Suspending guys all the time, I don't know if the league wants to do that. I think fines is really the only thing you can do on a weekly basis."

The $100,000 hit against Suh is the largest fine the league has ever issued against a player for an on-field incident, but the league also takes into account past incidents with the player.

Last year, he kicked kick Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin. Suh was on the ground next to Schaub and kicked him after Schaub released the ball. Suh was fined $30,000.

In 2011, Suh was suspended two games for stomping on the arm of Green Bay Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith as Suh was leaving the pile.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen knows a thing or two about fines in relation to large salaries. Allen is in the final year of a five-year, $57 million contract that he renegotiated in 2009.

"Fines hurt. I've been on the stiff end of a fine before. It hurts, but at some point you just are who you are. As a player, it's just a bad decision. I don't know if he's a bad dude," Allen said of Suh. "It's an illegal block no matter what. … Each person is different. Some people you fine. Other people are a little more hard-headed. I don't like seeing guys get suspended. $100,000, that's a hefty, hefty fine. Hopefully the message was sent, but I think at the same time you've got to be fair across the board. The dude from San Francisco (Joe Looney) deliberately takes out Kevin (Williams') knee – no fine. There's got to be some consistency across the board to get rid of it."

Unprompted, Smith and Allen both brought up another point: Fines are taken out before taxes, and in their tax bracket they feel like fines are almost double the amount listed. Smith, who was fined $40,000 last year, acknowledged that players get a charity write-off on their taxes, but he didn't know how beneficial that was.

Another issue: A player like Allen or Suh – well-compensated stars – are on their veteran contracts and earning far more than a player like Smith, who is still on his rookie contract. While Allen averages $12.2 million a year on his contract, Smith is averaging under $1.8 million, despite being a first-round draft pick. That's just the economics of rookie versus veteran contracts.

Still, Smith and Allen both acknowledged that $100,000 fines are going to hurt.

"Some people will say $100,000 is $100,000 no matter whose it is, and other people might say it's a scale thing," Smith said. "To me, what more are you going to fine him? Are you going to fine him a million? When is it enough?"

Said Allen: "Obviously, the commissioner is trying to make a statement with that. I do think the fines are out of control. You get a first-year guy and he gets hit with $30,000, that's multiple paychecks," Allen said. "Honestly, that's something I don't understand. I argued with the CBA why the fine system has these fines taken out after taxes. Technically, Suh got hit with a $200,000 fine because it got taken out of his net pay. … I don't know what makes it stick. You raise the fine and guys are still going to do things."

Quarterback Matt Cassel has been in the NFL since 2005 and seen plenty of fines to teammates. He even received one for excessive celebration once and that was enough to make him say he's never do that again.

But a $100,000 fine for Suh?

"$100,000 is $100,000 – I don't know what person in America would believe that $100,000 is not $100,000. That's a big hit," Cassel said. "But I can't speak on behalf of Suh. I don't know what his thoughts and feelings are. You'd think it would have an impact on somebody."

Cassel said teammates don't often pay that much attention to fines other people receive … until it affects the team. When a suspension is levied, that's when teammates step in and try to curb the actions and keep all their players available.

Smith said a suspension "definitely hurts worse" than a fine, but Allen isn't an advocate for suspensions.

"I don't think you should take guys off the field, but I guess if that's what it has to be to get some things to stick," Allen said. "But I think the way you do it is you're more consistent across the board. I think just because it's an offensive player not coming back to toward the line, he still had the intent to take to his knee out. Suh was in the process of the trying to make a block, and that's what he's going to argue, and he goes low. It's an illegal block. Bottom line, you intentionally took a dude's knee out. At some point, there's got to be some consistency. Honestly, I don't know what's going to come to make it stick."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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