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Question of the Day
ALLEN PARK, MICH. (AP) - 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 practice.
Suh took a flight from Nebraska to Michigan on Wednesday, signed his contract, passed a conditioning test and joined his teammates for drills on a muggy afternoon.
"I'm happy to finally be out here," he said. "I enjoyed it, knocking off the rust."
The No. 2 pick overall in the NFL draft was greeted by chants of "Suuuuhhhh!" from 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's five-year contract is worth $40 million guaranteed and as much as $68 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.
Team president Tom Lewand said he's not concerned with how Suh's deal compares to the contract Matthew Stafford signed last year after Detroit 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.
Does Detroit coach Jim Schwartz expect Suh to make an immediate impact on the defensive line?
"Yeah," Schwartz said. "Did you see the contract? We expect big things from him."
Suh does, too.
"It would be a disappointment if I didn't have that expectation," he said. "I'm going to continue to hold myself to a high standard to want to be the best and to be part of a team and a group of players that turns this around."
The Lions are counting on the former Nebraska defensive tackle to bolster a defense that ranked among the league's all-time worst in points allowed the past two seasons while the team went 2-30.
"We're obviously working to get out of that slump," Suh said.
Schwartz said earlier in the week he was disappointed Suh missed some opportunities in training camp and later veteran center Dominic Raiola told reporters Suh should tell 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 in 1997.
Detroit is hoping Suh was worth the wait.
He 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 weighed in at 305 pounds Wednesday, 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.
His breakout game was a 4 1/2-sack performance against Texas in the Big 12 title game and he finished with 12 sacks.
He was the first defensive tackle to be drafted among the top two picks since Oakland 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 last 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.
His mother, Bernadette, is a schoolteacher from Jamaica who required her son to post a 3.0 grade-point average before he could play football. His father, Michael, was born in Cameroon and became a mechanical engineer after moving to Portland, Ore., where his large son was quite a sight on soccer fields.
"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."
Suh said he was a little surprised to be practicing with the first-string defense right away, but intends to prove he deserves to be there.
"All I want to do now is come in here and work and make sure I can earn that starting job even though I'm out there with the 1s already," he said.
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