As the Detroit Lions launched what has turned into one of the team's more anticipative training camps on Saturday, there was a rather large piece of the puzzle missing: second overall pick Ndamukong Suh.
The 6'4, 307 pound rookie, who is expected to anchor Detroit's revamped defensive line for the foreseeable future, still hasn't reached an accord with the ball club. He wasn't at the team's Allen Park training facility. And, in fact, might be further from a deal than anyone really wants to admit.
An article from mlive.com's Tom Kowalski churned the rumor mill when it was suggested that Suh wants to be paid more money than No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, who landed $50 million in guaranteed cash. That fire was stoked when Suh's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, told FOX Sports Detroit's Mike O'Hara a deal wasn't close.
The team hasn't had an extended holdout since cornerback Bryant Westbrook missed a large portion of training camp in 1997. The Lions have traditionally had an excellent reputation among player personnel and agents for their bartering skills; providing adequate compensation for rookies, and ensuring that the players report in time for camp.
Second overall pick Ndamukong Suh might
have a rather lengthy holdout if the rumors
However, the other half of Suh's negotiating team is agent Eugene Parker, who doesn't share the same positive notoriety as the individuals across the table. Parker was responsible for holding out San Francisco's top draft pick, receiver Michael Crabtree, last season. Crabtree didn't agree to a deal until October -- several weeks into the NFL season.
Since both Bradford and the players drafted around Suh have already signed, his self-inflicted hiatus isn't far from gathering national headlines. And if his group truly feels that it's "No. 1 money" or bust, his absence from the team could be a protracted one.
In Allen Park, his teammates and coaching staff played it nonchalant.
"We’re all excited to see him," said quarterback Matt Stafford, "I think he’s going to be a great player for us for a long time and as soon as his deal gets done he’ll be out here. I know he’s probably just as anxious as anybody to get out here. I know I was last year and he’ll be excited and having a good time when he gets here.”
Suh was dominant in the team's off-season training program, and in particular, the team's mini-camp. According to coach Jim Schwartz, Suh's unit provided so much pressure that the quarterback was, several times, unable to even release his throw.
Schwartz provided an admittedly 'cliché' response, but made it apparent that a long absence by Suh would undoubtedly affect his play in camp.
“You worry about who is here and you coach who is here. We trust that the business end will get taken care of," said Schwartz. "Like I said before, I think a long-term, extended holdout would definitely set him back. But I know he comes in great shape and he’s chomping at the bit to be here.
"As soon as they get on the same page and they get a contract agreed to, he’ll be here and he’ll practice and probably won’t even look like he missed anything. I just hope that it’s not a long-term thing and it’s a short-term thing and he gets here as fast as he’d like to be here.”