Ray Rice’s suspension in context

In news today that was mostly (but not totally) condemned as tone-deaf and inappropriate, the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games, but no preseason games, practices, or training camp activities, and docked his pay for a third game, for beating his then-fiancee, Janay, until she was unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator at an Atlantic City casino this February. That the NFL has a serious domestic abuse problem became frighteningly clear at Rice’s post-beating press conference (which I unfortunately had to highlight here). Today’s mild sanction did nothing to change that nauseating narrative.

Deadspin put together a list of “other notable NFL suspensions,” which offers some context for Rice’s two-game sanction. If you want to read the list, with all of the details and circumstances, it’s available here. I’ve attempted to distill the list to the basics below.    Continue reading

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ALDLAND Podcast

No World Series preview . . . yet, but Marcus and I are happy to share our thoughts on the ALCS and NLCS so far. We also touch on Ndamukong Suh’s latest fine, as well as all of the college football picks you could ever want.

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NFL Quick Hits 2013: Ziggy Ansah

After making the playoffs two seasons ago, the Detroit Lions are trying to rebound from a frustrating 4-12 mark in 2012. While the numbers provide a reason to believe the Lions won’t be as bad– or unlucky– as they were last year and the spotlight rightly belongs on stars like Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and Ndamukong Suh, plenty will be asked of the team’s first-round draft pick (fifth overall), DE Ziggy Ansah. The question is not whether Ansah presents himself like a young, professional athlete– he answered that in the affirmative on draft day— but whether he will be able to avoid serving as the second coming of Darko Milicic. (After all, Darko thought he knew a thing or two about style too.) Ansah has played twenty-three games of football ever, all of them at BYU, and many of them on special teams. Ansah’s ability to develop his body, which he describes as “a delicate flower,” into one that can help solidify a talented but perpetually raw NFL defense will go a long way in determining whether the Lions will improve on their 2012 season. Coach Jim Schwartz said “the best is yet to come with . . . Ziggy.” When your team spends the fifth overall pick on a player as inexperienced as Ansah, that had better be true.

Midseason Monday

We’re into the meat of the 2012 football season with heavy games for most teams from here on out. It’s also the time when teams’ reputations for the year become solidified. One such team is Auburn, which fell to 1-6 on the season, 0-5 in conference with a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville. Four years ago, I watched these teams play under the lights in the same stadium. In 2008, Auburn was 5-0 and highly ranked, but the game outcome was the same. This year’s win over the TIgers/Plainsmen/Eagles won’t do as much for the Commodores’ strength of schedule, but it does push them to 2-3 in the conference, and it’s an important win to kick off the second half of a schedule that should be easier than the first.

While Vanderbilt took a necessary step in the positive direction Saturday, Michigan State took another step toward a lost season with a 12-10 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. More on that game later in the week. Back to the SEC for a moment, where the Eastern division is one of the most power concentrated and confusing divisions in the nation. Florida swamped South Carolina, 44-11, to go to 7-0 (6-0), while Georgia escaped Lexington with a 29-24 win over Kentucky. If Florida’s going to lose a game this year, it will be next week when they host Georgia, because the rest of their schedule is soft cake (Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, and Florida State). In the SEC West, LSU and Texas A&M renewed their rivalry in a compelling game featuring early Aggie control and a Tiger comeback win.

Elsewhere in the top 25, Alabama and Oregon rolled. Two quick notes on Oregon: 1) I’m worried that Florida’s #2 rating in the first BCS, together with their easy finishing schedule, will mean that we don’t get to see Alabama and Oregon in the national championship game, a matchup that feels very compelling and intriguing; and 2) the ALDLAND staff is still waiting on it’s autographed Oregon cheerleader calendar. Jog back to the SEC West, where Mississippi State is the most unheralded undefeated team in the country. After beating MTSU Saturday, though, they’re unlikely to stay that way, finishing with Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. Of course, nothing is more perennially unheralded than the Starkville Dogs, and that schedule only has something to do with it. Most of the rest of the top 25 won, including Clemson, Oregon State, and Stanford in important conference games. The upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders survived in triple overtime to beat TCU, and the very impressive Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown 55-14 in a game in which I’d only somewhat jokingly predicted WVU would score 100 after being embarrassed the week before. Dana Holgorson’s air raid offense appears to be out of jet fuel.

On Sunday, the Vikings continue to mount an increasingly compelling challenge to those who would dismiss them by going to 5-2 with a win over flash in the pan Arizona. RGIII continues to impress despite another close loss, this week to the Giants. The Saints doubled their win total by beating Tampa Bay, and the Raiders came back to beat the ailing Jaguars, who lost Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert, sending out the bat signal for David Garrard (I hope). The Patriots beat the Jets in overtime, although VSL’s Bobby O’Shea, a noted Jets fan, thinks that something is wrong in New England, and I’m inclined to agree. Whether it was the defensive injuries Baltimore suffered last week or Houston’s push to come back from a loss, the Texans returned to 2012 form with a 43-13 win over the Ravens.

In baseball, the World Series is nearly set. The Tigers are in(!), and the Cardinals and Giants are playing a game seven right now, which the Giants are winning 7-0 in the fourth. In other current news, Ndamukong Suh just separated Jay Cutler’s neck from the rest of his body. Bears 10, Lions 0 in the first half.

A case study in comparative NFL politics

Before the season started, I “interviewed” the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, and asked him about some of his disciplinary decisions. I couldn’t get him on the horn on short notice, but because I know he reads the site, I want to present the following data points for his review.

Case #1: Thanksgiving Day; Ndamukong Suh

Suspension for the above depicted act (which posed no meaningful threat of injury to any player): two games.

Case #2: December 8, 2011; James Harrison

Suspension for the above depicted act (which caused immediate and ongoing serious injury to the player involved): one game.

That Suh is a “repeat offender” cannot explain the distinction, as Harrison’s history of “devastating” hits is even more well known, and one of Harrison’s hits last season was the catalyst for the league’s crackdown on the very type of hit he put on McCoy last week. The only possible rationale for Suh’s heavier sanction is that his action came on Thanksgiving, a day of massive viewership, while Harrison’s hit was on a Thursday night game with many fewer viewers. Still, an indefensible basis for the disparity.

Many are rushing to brand Suh, previously largely a media darling, as a dirty, immature player, and I’ve tried to flesh out my own thoughts on 2011 Suh, but if you think Suh is making the Lions into a violent team, 1) you’re doing a disservice to Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, and 2) you haven’t heard 90s Lions star Lomas Brown dish on teammate Bennie Blades (fast forward to 3:24).

A boy named Suh

“My name is Suh! How do you do (me like that)?”

This morning, the NFL suspended Detroit Lions defender Ndamukong Suh for two games without pay:

NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks notified Ndamukong Suh today that he has been suspended without pay for the Lions’ next two games for his unsportsmanlike conduct in the Lions-Packers game on Thanksgiving Day. It was Suh’s fifth violation of on-field rules in the past two seasons that has resulted in league discipline. Suh may not practice or be at the team practice facility for any other activities during the two-game suspension. He will be reinstated on December 12. Under the CBA, the suspension may be appealed within three business days. If appealed, an expedited hearing and decision would take place this week in advance of this weekend’s games.

The suspension will cost Suh $164,000 in lost pay, and the way the official announcement reads, the mere filing of an appeal will not allow him to play in Sunday night’s game against New Orleans, a game in which his teammates will miss him sorely; only a completely successful appeal could do that. In addition to the team and individual character costs of mounting sanctions, some have begun to speculate that Suh’s corporate endorsers may not like his image either, although none have signaled any changes. Keep reading…

Pre-feast, postgame bite

Well that was a bust. I was not feeling great about this game beforehand, especially considering instability in the Lions’ run game, and I think the early injury that knocked Kevin Smith out of the game was more important to the Detroit loss than the Suh ejection, which is what everyone will be talking about. (Stafford’s multiple interceptions sure didn’t help either.) On that point, Jim Rome tweeted during the game that Suh is making it very difficult for him to continue to defend Suh against critics who call Suh a dirty player, and I have to agree.

This game was full of penaties and player injuries, and each side had a player ejected. Not a good showcase for either team. The Packers didn’t look amazing, but they didn’t have to; making zero mistakes and capitalizing on all of the Lions’ many errors was more than enough to carry them to victory and their first 11-0 start. The Lions fall to 7-4 and a tie with the Chicago Bears for the NFC wild card spot. To make the playoffs, Detroit needs at least three more wins. Their remaining schedule includes two difficult road trips: at Oakland, and at Green Bay.

It’s time to eat. Happy Thanksgiving from ALDLAND!