Ndamukong Suh’s first move in Tampa Bay: Addressing his reputation as a dirty player

The Bucs’ new defensive tackle has an aggressive style of play, and the Bucs hope he brings that edge to a defense in need of it.
New Buccaneers defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh says his reputation as a dirty player is "irrelevant in my life." MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
New Buccaneers defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh says his reputation as a dirty player is "irrelevant in my life." MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published May 31

TAMPA — Ndamukong Suh’s expression was mostly deliberate and businesslike as he navigated his Bucs introductory news conference Friday. Suh cracked a few smiles, one a slight smirk at the first mention of his reputation as the game’s dirtiest player.

It was a question the defensive tackle has had to answer in three previous NFL stops, so Suh was prepared to play defense for the first time in Tampa Bay.

“I think when people have seen blips of me … it’s been in a negative light rather than a positive light, and that is due to outlets of media, social media, whatever it may be,” Suh said.

[ MORE BUCS: Arians hopes Bucs play like Suh ]

“I can deal with that because I know who I am as a person, I know who my parents are and what kind of child they brought up. (The negative reputation is) irrelevant in my life. I think the people that know me the best always see me in a good light.”

The glimpse often first offered of Suh, 32, is in-the-moment clips that show him stomping on opponents and abusing quarterbacks.

“I think when you look at people in general, you’ve got to get to know them,” said Suh, who signed a one-year, $9.2 million deal last week. “You’ve got to get face time with them. You’ve got to have the opportunity to interact with them. … I always take the time to get to know (people), meet them, have coffee with them, whatever it may be, and then be able to go from there.”

And there are many more layers to Suh, a five-time Pro Bowl player and three-time All-Pro selection.

He holds an engineering degree from Nebraska. He has prepared a post-NFL-career portfolio like few others, utilizing the nearly $140 million he has already made.

One of his biggest mentors is Warren Buffett, the third-richest man in the world, according to Forbes. Suh owns a real-estate development company, TFL Development.

Suh has been fined $660,000 for unwarranted hits, the contract-information website Spotrac says. Just $50,000 of those fines have come over the past four seasons. Suh was voted by fellow players as the league’s dirtiest player in his third year in the league, 2012.

[ MORE BUCS: Is Suh more dominant than McCoy in the fourth quarter? ]

During a Thanksgiving game against the Packers in 2011, Suh pushed offensive lineman Evan Smith’s head into the turf, then stomped on him. They are now teammates in Tampa Bay. Suh said Smith, who is recovering from hip surgery, was the second person he talked to Friday after entering the Bucs’ facility.

Said Suh: “I think people want to make it bigger than what it is. I’ll leave it at that.”

Said coach Bruce Arians: “They were hugging coming down the hallway together, so I don’t think there’s any problem. … We’re all here to win. And once you’re in the same locker room, you forget all the past stuff. Some of that stuff happened a long time ago, and I really don’t care. That doesn’t bother me. The way (Suh) plays football, I like that, so he’s a good fit for us.”

The Bucs last week cut veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, taken one pick after Suh in the 2010 draft, at No. 3. The future of their top pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, is uncertain following a May 2 car accident that left him with a neck injury. The main reason the Bucs signed Suh is they believe he can improve a scoring defense that ranked second to last in the league last year.

Linebacker Lavonte David rattled off ways to describe Suh.

“Vicious, tenacity. He’s always going to go 100 percent, always going to be a guy who you have to account for,” David said. “He’s going to help a lot of us on the back end. It’s going to make things easy for us, give us the opportunity to fly around. He’s a guy you’re going to have to double team, maybe triple team.”

[ MORE BUCS: Suh's big week ]

Suh said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles played a major role in him signing with Tampa Bay. He considered teaming with Bowles last offseason when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach. Suh signed with the Rams instead.

“(Bowles’) personality, the way he looks at things, the way he wants to attack,” said Suh, whose first practice with the Bucs will come Tuesday when they open mandatory minicamp.

“I think coach Arians also mentioned in the press conference the other day about being able to attack, be very aggressive, play up the field. Obviously, people have their responsibilities and whatnot, but I’ve always enjoyed being in an attack-style defense.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.


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