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Lions rookie DT Suh signs contract, practices with first team

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The Detroit Lions waited four-plus days to get Ndamukong Suh on the field, then wasted no time putting him on their first-string defense in his first training-camp practice.

The rookie defensive tackle took a flight from Nebraska on Wednesday, signed his contract, passed a conditioning test and joined his teammates for drills on a muggy afternoon in Allen Park, Mich.

"I'm happy to finally be out here," Suh said. "I enjoyed it, knocking off the rust."

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The No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft was greeted by chants of "Suuuuhhhh!" from Lions fans as he walked on the practice field and was the center of attention for the next two hours.

Suh didn't report to training camp Friday and missed seven practices.

"It was a tough time," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to be in camp on time as I said previously. Unfortunately, I wasn't, so I apologize for that. As we all know, it's a business."

Suh received a five-year deal worth $68 million, with $40 million guaranteed, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.

Lions president Tom Lewand said he isn't concerned with how Suh's deal compares to the contract that Matthew Stafford signed last year after the team drafted the quarterback No. 1 overall. Stafford's six-year contract has $41.7 million in guarantees with a maximum value of $78 million.

"The focus needs to be what they do for a living, not how much they make doing it," Lewand said.

The Lions need Suh to do a lot. Lions coach Jim Schwartz was asked if he expected Suh to make an immediate impact on Detroit's defensive line.

"Yeah," Schwartz said. "Did you see the contract? We expect big things from him."

The Lions are counting on the former Nebraska defensive tackle to bolster a defense that ranked among the NFL's all-time worst in points allowed the past two seasons while the team went 2-30.

Schwartz said earlier in the week that he was disappointed Suh missed some opportunities in training camp, and veteran center Dominic Raiola later told reporters that the rookie should order his agents to make a deal. Soon thereafter, both sides agreed to terms.

"That's all I wanted," Raiola said. "It was nothing personal toward him or anybody else. We drafted him high to help this team and I was anxious to get him in here."

Suh's absence was half as long as Calvin Johnson's in 2007, when the team had its longest holdout since Bryant Westbrook missed almost the first month of training camp.

The Lions hope Suh was worth the wait.

Suh was the first defensive player to win The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year award since its inception in 1998 and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. The 6-foot-4 Suh, whose weight hovers around 300 pounds, swept the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as national defensive player of the year last season and won the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy honoring college football's top linemen.

Suh's breakout game was a 4½-sack performance against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, and he finished the season with 12 sacks.

Suh was the first defensive tackle to be drafted among the top two picks since the Oakland Raiders took Darrell Russell in 1997.

Suh graduated from Nebraska with a degree in construction management from the College of Engineering, and he donated $2.6 million to the university this past spring, including $600,000 to create an endowed engineering scholarship. The rest will pay for upgrades to Nebraska's strength-and-conditioning program for athletes.

Suh's mother, Bernadette, is a schoolteacher from Jamaica who required her son to post a 3.0 grade-point average before he could play football. Suh's father, Michael, was born in Cameroon and became a mechanical engineer after moving to Portland, Ore.

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"Ndamukong is an incredibly intelligent individual and he's also very mature," Lewand said. "I'm very impressed with him as an individual and obviously organizationally, we're impressed with him as a football player as well. We're excited to get him in here."

To make roster room for Suh, the Lions released defensive tackle Leger Douzable. The Lions also released safety Marquand Manuel and signed safety Randy Phillips.

Phillips made seven interceptions during his college career at Miami. He was a team leader for the Hurricanes last year in his fifth season after having knee surgery two years ago as a senior. Phillips has 18 siblings.

Manuel started in six games for the Lions last season. He also has played for the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals.

Douzable played in 12 games during the 2009 season for the St. Louis Rams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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