It's a new world order for the Detroit Lions' defense this fall. Without veteran influences like Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch to lead the defensive line, it will be important for Ndamukong Suh to develop the unique leader within himself.
Suh isn't a baby. He's had three years in Detroit's system, and has had plenty of time to shake off incidents which have had many questioning his character. After plenty of teaching from Williams, Vanden Bosch and company, Suh must continue to apply the lessons he's learned from others in order to take the Lions to new highs with actions and not just words.
The good news? Suh already appears to be taking a few of these next steps to mature before our very eyes. This week, he openly talked about some of his leadership qualities, and then subsequently discussed his ambitions to stick around Detroit before his contract expires, which should make a very important statement to those playing around him.
"I'm two years away from even considering those things, but to be honest with you, I'd love to be here in Detroit," Suh said. "It's a team and it's an organization I love being a part of and playing for."
Regardless of if Suh is a vocal leader or not on the field, as was recently debated by Jim Schwartz, Stephen Tulloch and those at Pro Football Talk, there's a major measure of leadership that can be taken from his commitment to a situation. Right now, Suh isn't ready to bail on Detroit or the Lions, and those in the locker room must understand the power of that statement, especially where a struggling franchise like Detroit's is considered. Typically, big free agents haven't lingered or been attracted. Despite that past, Suh isn't giving up.
Not everyone can be a "rah-rah" boss, and as people, we cannot look down on those in sport who aren't. Instead, we should embrace everyone's unique style. Simply by showing up, working hard and continually improving, Suh will prove himself to those around him, and they will embrace him. Tulloch and others can do the motivational speaking. Perhaps that's not for Suh, who has always seemed a bit more introverted and camera shy.
When we force athletes into roles where they feel uncomfortable, like in the locker rooms, that's when most of the trouble begins. The Lions should be content to let Suh lead his own way, through actions and not always motivational words. If he can remain a hard worker, have a dominating statistical year and keep his nose clean, that should be considered enough. The "win one for the Gipper" speeches can be left to someone else.
Providing what was lost up front, it will be the most important season for Suh in Detroit, and given his recent willingness to talk the topic of leadership and show some in his own way, everyone should be encouraged about his development.
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