Though Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford(notes) was 2010's first overall draft pick, there's little doubt that Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh(notes) was the best player in college football in 2009. Suh capped off a dominant senior season with an all-time performance in the Big 12 Championship, picking up 4½ sacks against Texas in a near-upset.
That Suh was drafted second overall by the Detroit Lions was not a surprise. That he kept his ridiculous aggressiveness at the NFL level ... well, that wasn't a surprise, either. Suh has outstanding strength and technique, but what sets him apart is the need to dominate on the field -- he displayed this against Texas when he threw Colt McCoy(notes) a good 5 yards on one of his sacks.
Guess what, NFL observers? No flag. The NCAA has a different concept of quarterback protection, and Suh found this out in Detroit's 35-27 win over the Cleveland Browns last Saturday, when he blew past his blocker and tried to open quarterback Jake Delhomme(notes) like a bottle with a helmet on top.
Face mask, 15 yards. Mr. Suh is going to have to learn that he is now in a league where the owners are trying to stuff an 18-game regular season down the throats of the players and are willing to change the rules however they must to ensure player safety (and, some would say, a much more sanitary and non-football type of football game).
"You don't want to do anything to curb his aggressiveness," head coach Jim Schwartz said with a wry smile after the game. "But seriously, things are different here than in college. He can't do that here."
Even Warren Sapp(notes), who never apologized to anyone for the hurt he put on quarterbacks, advised Suh to practice a more cautious approach.
@ndamukong_suh u ok Big Boy!! U can't Take the QB's Head Home with U!!! Must Leave it Intact!!
Suh's an amazing player, but he'd better figure this out quickly. The Lions face the Minnesota Vikings twice each year, and if Suh tries this on Brett Favre(notes), Roger Goodell and a team of network executives might ban him from the game on the spot. Throwing the quarterback? Acceptable, as long as there hasn't been a whistle. Dual-facemask takedowns? Not so much.