The NFL this off-season has identified 21 “at-risk” players in its league — players who were either suspended over the past two years for hits or close to being suspended.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has been fined a hefty chunk of change for illegal hits the past two seasons, was one of them (his two-game suspension for his infamous “stomp” was in 2011). And Suh just happened to be the first player Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive VP of football operations, met with for an in-person meeting this off-season.
“The objective was to sit down, review the tape, watch the games, and let’s see what’s taking place — from a coverage standpoint, up front, every scenario,” Vincent told NFL.com’s Albert Breer. “How do we assist in making sure the player, the coach, the agent, everyone is on the same page in regards to what we expect and what they expect? A lot of it was casual conversation, put on the tape and say, ‘Take me through this play progression.’ ”
Suh, as Breer points out, has long been scrutinized by referees and the NFL for his style of play. But Vincent said he found his meeting with Suh very encouraging.
“He was very receptive, he understood, he cared about the perception, his reputation, and I told him we’re not trying to take the edge he plays with away,” Vincent said. “I said, ‘We’ve seen you adjust, we’ve seen an adjustment in your play, let’s keep that going.’ … We met for hours, talking about the example he sets, the role model he’s become, and emphasizing his adjustment. What he did was set the bar with his approach, since he was first.”
Vincent played in the NFL from 1992-2006 as a defensive back for the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. He’s a 5-time Pro Bowler, 3-time All-Pro and Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner in 2002.
Vincent said, overall, the players he has met with so far have been “very receptive” to his in-person meetings. He’s met with 16 of the league’s “at-risk” players and plans to meet with the other five in the next couple weeks.