ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ndamukong Suh is going back to the NFL, this time hoping for some leniency.
The league suspended Detroit's All-Pro defensive tackle without pay for two games on Tuesday, punishing the second-year player for roughing up a Green Bay Packers offensive lineman after the whistle last week. Suh promptly appealed his suspension, hoping his stomp doesn't keep him away from his playoff-hopeful teammates when they need him most.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Suh's hearing will be with Art Shell, an appointed appeal officer who is paid by the league and NFLPA. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the hearing hadn't been scheduled, but the league has said it will expedite the procedure to give Suh and Lions an answer before Sunday's game at New Orleans.
If Suh doesn't win the appeal, he won't play against the Saints or in the Dec. 11 home game against Minnesota. He would return Dec. 12 ahead of a road game against Oakland.
Suh is barred from practice and the team's facility while suspended. He did not return messages left with his agent.
"As a player, you have to appeal it," said Detroit defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the team's union rep. "I'm sure the NFLPA will be on his side to make sure that he gets a fair hearing."
If the NFL turns rejects the appeal, Suh will be watching the Lions (7-4) scramble to keep up in the NFC wild-card race after what the league said was his fifth violation of on-field rules in his first two years in the NFL. And everyone saw the latest one.
Suh lifted up his right knee and forcibly stepped on Evan Dietrich-Smith's right arm during the third quarter of the Lions' 27-15 loss last Thursday in a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game. Before the stomp seen from coast to coast, Suh shoved Dietrich-Smith's helmet toward the turf while separating himself from the Packers player on the ground.
It might have hurt Suh's case when he sounded defiant during his postgame news conference, insisting he didn't intentionally step on his opponent. After the Lions criticized his conduct Friday, Suh issued an apology to his teammates, organization and fans — not to Dietrich-Smith — as some around the league said his latest outburst proved he was the NFL's dirtiest player.
"I'll let him speak for himself when he gets that opportunity, but I've had a lot of conversations with him the last two days and I think he is in a different spot," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. "I think his No. 1 thing is, he didn't want to be a distraction for the team. He wanted the team to be able to focus on the Saints and he wants to be accountable for his actions."
Earlier this season, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year requested a meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his play after he drew several penalties and another fine. Suh said he had a better understanding of the rules after that meeting four weeks ago. On Sunday, he called Goodell to apologize but that didn't appear to help.
Lions offensive linemen Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims refused to answer questions about Suh after Tuesday's practice. Vanden Bosch, though, believes everyone in the locker room supports Suh, who he spoke with on Tuesday.
"His biggest regret is the affect it had on the team," Vanden Bosch said. "It was an unfortunate situation. When you're on the field, a lot of things happen when you're playing with so much emotion in such a physical game. It's difficult to look at the grand scheme of things when you're in the heat of the moment.
"There's no question he'd like to have the moment back, but he's dealing with the repercussions of it and we are as well."
The Lions will have a roster exception during Suh's suspension, meaning they can sign someone to replace him or bolster some other spot on the team.
Dietrich-Smith wasn't available to reporters in Green Bay on Tuesday, but other Packers players heard of the suspension. Linebacker Desmond Bishop said Suh "probably deserved it."
"He did something wrong, suspended, he'll pay the fine or whatever and hopefully (he'll be) back and it'll change him a little bit from doing something like that," Bishop said.
Guard T.J. Lang said the team was moving forward and wasn't worried about Suh.
"Fortunately, we've never been in a situation like that," he said. "We just worry about ourselves and what we do as a group, and I think we have enough intelligence, definitely, as a team, and enough character, guys not doing any dumb things to put the team in jeopardy. That's for other teams to worry about."
Suh has already been fined three times for roughing up quarterbacks and another time for unsportsmanlike conduct. He leads the league with nine personal fouls since 2010, according to STATS LLC — two more times than teammate Cliff Avril and three more than Philadelphia's Jason Babin, San Francisco's Dashon Goldson and Denver's D.J. Williams.
Suh grabbed Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and threw him to the turf after he had gotten rid of the ball in a preseason game this year. He was docked twice last year for shoving Chicago's Jay Cutler high in the back and for twisting Cleveland's Jake Delhomme's face mask and slamming him to the ground. He also was fined $5,000 during Week 9 in the 2010 season for unsportsmanlike conduct.
He has been able to absorb the fines, making $40 million guaranteed with a chance to get paid as much as $68 million in his five-year contract he signed after Detroit drafted the former Nebraska star No. 2 overall in 2010.
Suh's reputation, though, has just taken a big hit and it will cost his team that is clinging to hopes of earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
"Obviously, it hurts to lose any player for two games much less a player like Ndamukong Suh," Schwartz said. "But there's accountability for our actions and that's a situation where something happened after the whistle. We want to be as tough and physical and play as hard as we can between the snap and whistle, but anything that happens after that we put our team in a bad position and we have to pay the consequences for and that's the position we're in right now."
Suh can try to work on his image and channeling his passion, but he won't get off an unwanted list of players who have been suspended for on-field conduct during the Goodell era.
Most famously, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games in 2006 for swiping his cleats across the head of helmetless Dallas center Andre Gurode.
Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams was forced to miss a game in 2007 after his third illegal horse-collar tackle of that season. Tampa Bay's Elbert Mack had to sit out of a game during the 2008 season for a helmet-to-helmet blow, his second flagrant hit in three games. Eric Smith was suspended for a game that year for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Two years ago, Carolina's Dante Wesley missed a game for a hit to the head.
Vanden Bosch said he's not sure Suh's suspension was merited.
"There's not a lot of precedent," he said.
Decades ago, what Suh did was just part of the doing business on the field.
"It's a different game, covered differently these days," said four-time Super Bowl winning linebacker Matt Millen, whose playing career started three decades ago with the Oakland Raiders. "What's deemed crazy now, wasn't crazy back in the day. Now more than ever, you have to keep your poise and control emotions when you feel like you have to retaliate. What you learn is, you don't have to get back at the guy right then and that you've got time to take care of field justice."
Hall of Fame defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene said he suspects Suh has learned a lesson.
"I hated for that to happen to him and I'm sure he does now, too," Greene said. "With time, he'll learn how to funnel his fire, but I hope he never loses that fire because he has to have it to play the position."
JAGUARS' OWNER FIRES COACH, WILL SELL TEAM: Jacksonville Jaguars team owner Wayne Weaver fired longtime coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start and agreed to sell the Jaguars to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.
Weaver named defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the interim coach and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension, putting him in charge of the coaching search.
The moves marked the most significant changes for the small-market franchise since its inception in 1993.
"It's the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons," Weaver said. "We deserve better; the community deserves better. We've been very average over the last few years. I take responsibility for a lot of that, making mistakes in some personnel things, but look positive ahead that this team is not far away from being a very competitive football team."
Forbes reported the sale to be worth $760 million.
Weaver, who will turn 77 in January, had been looking for an "exit strategy" for years, wanting to find someone to buy the team and keep it in Jacksonville. He had tears in his eyes several times as he announced his impending departure.
"It's a little bittersweet, honestly, that it came as soon as it did," Weaver said. "But the main motivation for the exit strategy was to find someone that has the same passion about the NFL, had the same passion about football in Jacksonville as we do, and I found that person."
Khan, 61, believes he is the right choice, too.
"Wayne's legacy will be lasting, and I will always be grateful for Wayne's trust and confidence in my commitment to the Jaguars, the NFL and the people of the Jacksonville community," Khan said in a statement.
Born in Pakistan, Khan left home at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1971, a year after he started working for Flex-N-Gate Corp. in Urbana, Ill. He purchased the company in 1980. Today, Flex-N-Gate is a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America.
TEXANS SIGN DELHOMME: The injury-riddled Houston Texans added to their quarterback depth Tuesday, reaching a deal with Jake Delhomme.
Delhomme worked out with the Texans on Tuesday, along with another retired quarterback, Jeff Garcia. The 36-year-old Delhomme will back up rookie T.J. Yates, a fifth-round pick slated to start Sunday's game against Atlanta.
Rick Smith, Delhomme's agent, said in a phone interview Tuesday that his client has been staying in shape and raising racehorses in Louisiana since he was cut by Cleveland in July.
"He relishes that role, and he's looking forward to contributing to the team," Smith said in a phone interview. "He keeps himself in shape, he's been throwing a bunch."
The Texans are dangerously thin at the position in the wake of season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.
Houston signed Kellen Clemens last week after learning that Schaub will need season-ending surgery on his right foot. Leinart broke his left collarbone in Sunday's 20-13 win over Jacksonville.
Yates replaced Leinart late in the first half, and went 8 for 15 for 70 yards in his first NFL action. Coach Gary Kubiak confirmed Monday that Leinart was out for the year and said Yates would start against the Falcons.
Smith didn't know if Delhomme would be No. 2 or No. 3 on the depth chart this week. But Smith said Delhomme would only consider playing for a handful of teams if he ever came back, and Houston was one of them.
"Gary runs a very quarterback-friendly system," said Smith, who also represents former Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels. "It's a great offensive system, and quarterbacks, they love it."
Delhomme guided Carolina to the Super Bowl after the 2003 season — played at Reliant Stadium. He completed 16 of 33 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns in the Panthers' 32-29 loss to Tom Brady and New England.
Houston plays the Panthers at Reliant on Dec. 18.
Cleveland signed Delhomme to a two-year contract in March 2010, but he sprained his right ankle in the opener, lost his starting job to rookie Colt McCoy and played in only five games. He threw only two touchdown passes with seven interceptions that season.
But the Texans could hardly afford to be picky.
With Yates thrust into a starting role, Houston will have to lean on its top-ranked defense and No. 3 rushing attack to navigate through the final five games and earn the franchise's first playoff berth.
Despite losing a key player seemingly every week, the Texans are having their best season. They've won five in a row and hold a two-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC South.
"They've got a lot of people telling them they can't do something," Kubiak said of his team Monday. "Believe me, they believe they can. It's been about the team all year long and it will continue to be that way. It's just another obstacle. We'll rally and get ready to go this week."
The Texans rank second in pass defense (175.8 yards per game) and fourth against the run (92.5 yards per game). They have 35 sacks, second in the league to Baltimore, and they're plus-11 in turnover ratio.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate were bottled up against Jacksonville, but both still rank among the league's top 16 rushers.
PACKERS' LINEBACKER ARRESTED: Linebacker Erik Walden has apologized to the Green Bay Packers' organization, his teammates and fans in the wake of his recent arrest on suspicion of domestic violence.
Walden says he is cooperating with the legal process and is sorry that he "brought something negative from so much positive that's going on" with the Packers.Comment on this story
Walden's status for Sunday's game at the New York Giants remains unclear, and Walden says he "absolutely" is resigned to the possibility that he may not be allowed to play. Packers coach Mike McCarthy is scheduled to speak to reporters today.
Walden spent the weekend in jail after he was arrested Friday on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend at their apartment near Green Bay.
Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski said Monday that Walden's girlfriend originally told police they were arguing and he pushed her, but she has changed her story to say she hit him first.