Lance Louis (center) blocks Ndamukong Suh as Jay Cutler looks downfield… (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago…)
That rumble you hear is Ndamukong Suh. The All-Pro defensive tackle is coming to Chicago, along with a nasty group of defensive linemen who include ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and tackle Nick Fairley.
All three non-Suhs have achieved some level of NFL success: Avril led the Lions in sacks last season and is doing it again, Fairly was a first-round draft pick last year, and Vanden Bosch is a three-time Pro Bowler.
But none stirs the imagination like the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh, a man as acclaimed as he is notorious. The acclaim comes primarily from his play as a rookie, in which he notched 10 sacks, returned a fumble for a touchdown, was named an All-Pro, and even lined up for an extra point. (He missed.)
The notoriety comes from his on-field conduct, which included nine personal foul penalties in his first two seasons (the most in the NFL in that time frame), and of course his infamous stomping of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving a year ago.
And in a poll of NFL players conducted by the Sporting News, Suh was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL.
You think about a guy like that, and you figure he's like the old Vikings defensive lineman John Randle, screaming at people before the snap, wearing face makeup, twitching and jerking like a maniac.
Not so, say the Bears offensive linemen. He's ferocious, yes, but quiet, they say. The men most responsible for blocking him, center Roberto Garza and guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal, spoke of Suh in glowing terms. Garza called him "tough" and "powerful." Louis called him "explosive," "strong" and "a well-rounded defensive lineman."
And Rachal? "I mean, he's good. He's Ndamukong Suh!"
But as Louis was quick to say, "There's a lot of All-Pros in this league. I'm just looking forward to playing."
The Bears also can be described as "tough," "powerful," "explosive," and "strong," but I can't remember hearing anyone call them dirty or accusing them of showboating, charges so often levied upon these Detroit Lions.
"You take the personality of the coach," Gabe Carimi said. "Obviously he likes [the way they play] and they've had success with that and they're going to continue with that."
That attitude and flair of the Lions bothers some fans, but if Carimi is correct about teams emulating their coaches, then it's no surprise that Lovie Smith's team was stoic and indifferent about Detroit's antics.
"Whatever gets them going, to each his own," Rachal said.
"I don't really focus on them as a team like that," Louis said.
"The biggest thing you can do is just talk with your pads," defensive end Corey Wootton said. "All the other nonsense and the other talking doesn't get a win."
So there you have it—the quiet, mild-mannered team from Chicago vs. the trash-talking, showboating, rule-bending bullies from Detroit. It's Bulls-Pistons all over again! I guess that makes Suh the Bill Laimbeer of this bunch.
And yet for all the talk surrounding Suh and the Lions, the reality is that Suh has recorded only one sack in his four games against the Bears, a stretch in which Detroit has gone 1-3. The Bears are much more concerned with the prowess of Calvin Johnson than the bull-rushing of Suh. Johnson was a Pro Bowler the past two seasons and an All-Pro last year; Suh has only 6 1/2 sacks since his rookie season.
One thing's for certain: If Suh returns to his All-Pro form Monday night, he'll face an offensive line that's up for the challenge. The rumble's coming. Let the game begin.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.
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