Ravens running back Ray Rice was diplomatic when asked about the Detroit Lions' reputation for being dirty, a charge most often leveled at defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Rice carefully avoided any verbal missteps. He wasn’t about to provide any additional motivational fuel during a week in which rookie free safety Matt Elam created unwanted headlines when he called Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson “pretty old” during an otherwise complimentary interview.
“Their reputation, they definitely live up to it,” Rice said of the Lions. “I don’t know if you want to call it physical or dirty. Whatever the refs see, that’s what they see. But needless to say, I’m not going to spark any fire.”
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Suh recently said he’s trying to change his reputation after being fined eight times and suspended once in his NFL career. Suh has been fined $139,375 this season, including a recent $7,875 fine for making a throat-slashing gesture against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.
Suh has shown signs of reform in his words and actions this season while remaining an aggressive player. Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley has three personal fouls while Suh has none this season.
“We’re looking forward to getting the best Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on Monday night,” Rice said. “If they’re aggressive, they’re going to be aggressive. You can’t take that away from a guy. But now you’ll see they’re playing smart-aggressive. They are not being penalized as much for the unsportsmanlike conducts. I watched on Thanksgiving when they played Green Bay.
“Ndamukong Suh gets a sack in the end zone and helps the guy up. That shows that he is becoming a very mature guy. The old him probably would have stepped over him and done some things, taunting him a little bit. For him to make a big play like that and not let his emotions get the best of him and actually brace the guy going down and help him up shows that he is becoming mature.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is primarily concerned with finding a way to contain the Lions’ pass rushers and run-stoppers, including Suh, Fairley and defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young.
“It’s not a normal group,” Caldwell said. “There are a number of first-round draft picks over there that play extremely well. They’re not one-dimensional. These are powerful men that can flat get after you, that not only can rush the passer, they can disrupt and destroy.
“You really have to put together a plan that does a little bit of everything. First and foremost, you better block them. You better be technically sound because they take advantage of every single weakness you have.”