As the next generation of players enter the NFL, Suh’s future is uncertain.
You don’t just sign Ndamukong Suh to your team. You’re signing a six feet, four inches, 307 lb nightmare tailored made to haunt opposing QBs for four quarters. That’s what we have bared witness to for the last nine years including in Super Bowl LII. As the next generation of players enter the NFL, Suh’s future, as well as every player’s in the league, is uncertain.
By the end of the 2020 season, NFL owners and the NFL Players Association will need to agree on another Collective Bargaining Agreement, which decides everything from salary rates and guaranteed contracts to the voluntary workouts Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t understand are voluntary.
The Shadow League spoke with the three-time All-Pro, Portland-native this week at Nike’s New York headquarters as the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle hosted a Combine workout at the inaugural Nike Football Draft Experience (FDE). The nine-year vet explained the voice he’ll have at the upcoming CBA negotiations, how he was blindsided by Uncle Sam’s taxes in his first year as a pro and his fondest memories of the Portland Jail Blazers.
In January 2011, following his dominant rookie season, Suh was named the 2010 Rookie of the Year after leading all defensive tackles in the NFL in sacks with 10. Less than two months later, his career was halted when NFL owners locked players out of the league until both sides could come to a consensus on the CBA. Eight years later, Suh and the other NFL players find themselves in a similar situation with the current CBA expiring after the 2020 season.
This time, though, Suh is a big dog veteran in the game and plans to make his voice heard louder amongst the collective than he did eight years ago.
Suh doesn’t want too much of his history repeating, attesting “you never hope for a lockout.” But, you can see a little nostalgia wash over his face watching the Nike FDE participants do a few of the same workouts he did at his NFL Draft Combine. Side-eye interest in the vertical jump workout quickly turned to Suh giving stern motivation to everyone that participated. Wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think at some point during the workouts he remembered his own Combine experience.
“My combine experience was a blast. I met a ton of different coaches, as well as other players in my draft. I think the biggest piece was being able to hang out with other guys in my draft class. Late nights, early mornings, showcasing your talent.”
Suh entered the league as the #2 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, signing a five-year, $68 million contract with the Detroit Lions. He was an unruly menace on the field, nearly ripping Jake Delhomme’s head off of his neck in one game. Yet, the hardest hit the then-23-year-old defensive tackle took his rookie year wasn’t even on the field, it was in his pockets.
“Taxes were the biggest things that I realized I’m very fortunate to make a lot of money but, understanding Uncle Sam is going to get his share, “ Suh told The Shadow League.
Detroit is where his NFL past begins, but Suh’s earliest sports memories reside in Portland, Oregon. When Suh spoke with The Shadow League, the world was less than 12 hours removed from Damian Lillard ending the Oklahoma City Thunder with one of the greatest buzzer-beaters in Trail Blazers history. It’s through such a monumental moment in Portland sports history that we learn about his familial connection to the Jail Blazers.
Suh spoke on “having been able to meet Damon and know him at an early age as a kid”, recalling that Damon’s mother actually lived around the corner from where Suh grew up.