They can fine him all they want, but Lions' All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh isn't likely to let the NFL soften him.
"A fine is a fine," he said after getting docked $20,000 for his post-pass take down of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the exhibition season opener. "And I can't do anything about that. It's not my decision. It's something I have to deal with. But I'm not necessarily happy with everything."
Suh is hearing it from every angle. His coaches and teammates are telling him to stay aggressive, keep attacking." And then in the next breath they say, "but be careful."
The $20,000 hit was his third fine. He was tagged for $7,500 for a hit on Jake Delhomme and another $15,000 for a shove on Jay Cutler last season. There is concern that he's becoming a marked man with the officials.
"They are going to have it out for him now," said veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams. "This is like the third one he's got so he'll have to be careful leading up to the season. Like I told him, they are going to be on him. I am not telling him not to be physical but he's going to have to be careful with it."
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said the problem is the league's, not Suh's.
"There's no one that's ever played like this at defensive tackle," Cunningham said. "You can write what you want about me going overboard and being exceptionally high on this guy, but I'm telling you: I've been here 30 years, I've seen a lot of change in this league, and the problem with the league is they've never seen a tackle like this. That's their problem."
The hit on Dalton was a perfect example of that. The ball was still in his hand when Suh wrapped him up. Suh wrapped him from behind and spun him to the ground. There is no way he could have known the ball was released.
It was an aggressive play and a violent play, but not a dirty play.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," Suh said. "There's always a fine line between dirtiness and aggressiveness. I know to this point, in my own heart, I haven't crossed that line by any means."
Head coach Jim Schwartz defended Suh, but also acknowledged that the league puts the onus on defensive players to know when the ball has been released by the quarterback.
"It is tough," Schwartz said. "There's at least two different times that I've seen defensive linemen let the quarterback go when they still had the ball and they wound up completing the pass."
Case in point, Schwartz remembered a play a few years back when Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka had quarterback Vince Young in his arms, thought the play was dead and let him go.
Young spun away and rambled 10 yards for a game-changing first down.
"Mathias had gotten a roughing penalty the week before," Schwartz said. "So, he lets him go the next week and it ended up costing them."
Suh said that won't happen to him.
"I would never put myself in that position," he said. "I will never be in the position where it's 'should I or should I not.' Either you do it or not."
For Suh to change the way he plays, he would have to change his football DNA.
"You can ask Kyle (Vanden Bosch), the tradition we have at Nebraska, the Black Shirt tradition, is one of aggressiveness and imposing your will on any player that's opposing you," Suh said. "With that, we play at a very high tempo. That's why Kyle plays the way he does, and that's why I play the way I do. That's our nature. That's how I grew up in the game of football."
Telling him to be careful might be futile, too. He will tell you that he plays with a controlled, not reckless aggression. The reason he shoved Cutler last season instead of tackling him was he saw Cutler get rid of the ball. He held himself back.
"It's the reason people play football; aggression is the name of the sport," Suh said. "It means being violent and being very aggressive and getting after the quarterback. That's what you are known for. That's what you do. If you didn't do that then I don't think you'd be playing football in the NFL."
As for Williams' warning that he might be becoming a marked man with officials, Suh doesn't seem to be sweating any of that.
"That's not my decision," he said. "For me, it's an opportunity to keep playing and continue to play hard. That's the way I've been taught and that's the way I will continue to play."