ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – The Detroit Lions are postponing contract talks with All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the season.
Suh is entering the final season of his contract, and team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew said before practice Monday that negotiations are being tabled. Lewand and Mayhew both expressed optimism that a deal can eventually be reached.
“He’s told me he wants to be here. I have a good relationship with him,” Mayhew said. “I know I want him to be here. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Lewand said Detroit’s salary cap situation isn’t the reason for the delay in an agreement.
If the two sides can’t reach a deal after the season, the Lions could still keep Suh by using their franchise tag on him.
“I wouldn’t close the door on that,” Mayhew said. “Every year, we have people concerned about our ability to function under the salary cap, and thus far we’ve been able to go out in free agency every year and add to our team, make our team better. . . . I think the cap is going to go up next year, and probably the year after that too.”
Suh was drafted in 2010 by the Lions out of Nebraska with the second overall pick, and he has 27½ sacks in his four pro seasons.
“We have a high degree of confidence that we can work out something that will be mutually satisfactory at the right time, and the goal hasn’t changed in the least. But the timing is such that we think the focus needs to be on the field, starting today,” Lewand said. “There’s no adversarial nature to this decision. . . . I think this is what’s right for everybody.”
Mayhew said contract negotiations during the season can make it harder for a player to stay focused, so it’s important to put off any further discussions. He admitted these talks haven’t progressed as quickly as he expected.
“At the combine, I probably thought around the start of free agency, possibly,” Mayhew said. “After the draft, I thought probably by now. And now I think probably next year.”
So now the Lions sound prepared to wait until then for a resolution.
“It’s been my experience from doing this that when you can get a deal done in five minutes, the player’s not very good,” Mayhew said. “It takes a little bit of time to get good players signed, and it’s a little bit more complicated.”
Spence all the way back
Latrobe, Pennsyvlania — The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.
Spence almost gleefully smashed into fullback Bryce Davis during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first full contact drill of training camp on Monday. The two tussled for several seconds before Davis — his fists full of Spence’s jersey — pulled them both to the ground.
Call it a victory for Spence, in more ways than one. He’s a football player again, however unlikely that may have been in the agonizing weeks and months after he shredded his left knee in a 2012 preseason game against Carolina.
The former third-round pick used to watch replays of his knee bending in ways it’s not supposed to bend — ripping up his peroneal nerve in the process — as he raced into the Carolina backfield. No longer.
“I don’t even revisit it,” Spence said.
For good reason. Spence spent too many nights crying himself to sleep wondering if he would ever make it all the way back.
Sure there were times he doubted he would get this far. He responded by forcing himself to go in for treatment on the days he would have rather stayed home because watching the Steelers prepare for life without him was just too painful.
Slowly, his surgically repaired knee regained strength. Amazingly, the nerve regenerated. The 24-year-old Spence looked as quick as ever during organized team activities during the spring, but he knew Monday would be the day of reckoning.
The Steelers begin the contact portion of training camp at Saint Vincent College with “backs on backers,” which is just as basic — and as violent — as it sounds. A linebacker bolts toward the quarterback, with a running back or tight end the only thing in his way. It’s a chance for rookies to make a name for themselves and veterans to show they’ve still got it.
For Spence, it was a homecoming.
“I was anxious,” he said. “I was chomping at the bit.”