February 02, 2011
When I last spoke with Detroit Lions Super-Tackle Ndamukong Suh, it was mid-December, and Suh was finishing up one of the more dominant seasons any rookie defenders has enjoyed in recent years. Frequently double-teamed and moved all over the line, Suh finished his initial NFL campaign with 10 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Suh was back in Dallas for the Super Bowl media blitz and to talk to the press on behalf of Subway, and I was able to catch up with him in this exclusive interview.
Shutdown Corner: You've certainly been asked about the adjustment from college to the NFL, and how easily you did make that leap. Watching you both at Nebraska and Detroit, it seems to me that hand placement and footwork are the two things that really allow you to dominate. Have those been the key factors for you, and how did the coaching you got at Nebraska help you at the next level?
Ndamukong Suh(notes): Oh, without question. Hand placement has been a big thing, and my natural ability with my feet and refining that through coaching. Coach Carl Pelini was great at Nebraska, and that was something I wanted to hone in on, and that gives me an advantage over just God-given talent. I can't thank the coaches enough for that help.
SC: I think the two words I'd use to describe your hand-work when playing are "violent" and "accurate." How did you come about that, and where did you develop those techniques?
NS: I think it's a combination of things - natural ability and the quickness when using my hands, but also the mindset to know where you need to place them to beat your man. You have to be able to react to what the offensive line is giving you. Also, it's great coaching.
SC: The obvious thing is to say that your soccer background helped with your footwork, but how specifically did that take effect when you started playing football?
NS: That's definitely true, and the reason I say that is that when I was a little kid, being able to control a soccer ball with my feet gave me that coordination at an early age. I was able to translate that into football pretty easily.
SC: From a coaching perspective, your head coach (Jim Schwartz) obviously understands line play, and you've got one of the most experienced D-coordinators out there in Gunther Cunningham. How have Schwartz and Cunningham helped your career so far? What have you learned from them?
NS: They've helped my career tremendously. They've trusted me and moved me around - standing me up, putting me on the left side and right side - and allowing me to use my natural abilities. They've allowed me to learn how to break down offenses, and learn how to beat them from an interior position, and how to be successful at it. So, I can't thank them enough, and I look forward to working with them for a long period of time, and winning a lot of games.
SC: When we spoke at the Nike event in Dallas a few months ago, I asked you who your toughest NFL opponent had been, and you mentioned right guard Josh Sitton(notes) of the Green Bay Packers. Now that America will see Sitton in the Super Bowl, what can they - and the Steelers' defense - expect from him?
NS: He's definitely a smart guy - he picks up on what a player's tendencies are, which is a good and a bad thing. Because I obviously knew that the second time we played against him, and I was able to use it a little bit against him. You have to keep him guessing - that's the only way to beat him. If you just stay consistent at what you do, and you don't mix it up, he's going to be able to shut you down because he'll know what you expect to do in certain situations. He'll be watching you, and he's great at film study.
SC: I've talked to a few players about the "safety rules", and most of them have said that the more they're told by the NFL what the rules are, the more confused they become. In the "Hey, Rookie, Welcome to the NFL" featuring you, they showed a roll of ... questionable calls against you in your first year. Do you feel that you're being targeted to a point because of your aggressive play?
NS: I don't know ... that's not something I can really answer for you, because I'm not the one making those calls. I'm just going to continue to play as hard and fast as I can - that's what I do, and the only thing I know how to do. I feel that I owe it to my teammates, my coaches, and the fans
SC: Are players being encouraged by their coaches to change their styles of play because of the new rules, or is a sense that "we don't know what they're looking for, so we'll just do what we do?"
NS: I think it's a sense of mixed emotions. Our coaches don't want us to lose any edge - being fiery and going after a quarterback, running back, or receiver. They want us to attack the ball and be smart, but they're not going to tell us to back off and not hit anybody or anything like that. Just be smart, don't take cheap shots, and make sure you're playing the ball. As long as you're playing the ball and not trying to impose your will or trying to hurt someone, you should be fine.
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