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Ndamukong Suh was never going back to Detroit

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Suh's flight from the Lions started a long time ago.

The 2011 stomp, the ejection, the quick bolt home, the forced return to Ford Field, the fallout and the eventual bolt for good to Miami. That is the backdrop, the core of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's exit from the Detroit Lions to the Miami Dolphins.

Netting $114 million, $60 million guaranteed, and becoming the NFL's highest-paid defensive player illustrates how money talks. But when Suh talked on Wednesday after signing, he called the Dolphins "a progressive group," and said "that's where you really build a culture and a culture that wants to succeed."

That's a mouthful.

Here is a nibble of what he really meant.

When Suh, in his second NFL season, stomped on the arm of offensive linemen Evan Dietrich-Smith early in the third quarter on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers in 2011, he was ejected. He went to the locker room, dressed and bolted for home while the game ensued. Late in the game upon learning he had left, the Lions called him and told him to immediately return. They told him he would have to discuss things with them and face reporters.

Suh returned. He met with Lions leaders. He stood at the podium and talked to reporters.

But Suh and his team of advisers believed the Lions did not help him enough to prepare for that. Suh and his team were angry that the Lions forced him to immediately do it. Suh and his group learned to live with it -- but never forgot it.

The Lions indicated they gave him direction on how to handle the situation with reporters but that he ignored it. The Lions believe that this incident or anything since had nothing to do with Suh bolting for Miami. They believe he always had designs on testing free agency. That he always had designs on moving to a bigger, stronger and more opportunistic city and market for his goals in and beyond football.

Of course, the Lions helped pave the way for all of that by twice restructuring his rookie deal, which made any option of forcing him to stay in 2015 via the franchise tag economically impossible for the team. They helped set him free by not signing him well before last season with the type of huge dollars Miami offered and that the Lions eventually offered only in the waning days prior to his Miami bolt.

It's over. It's beyond time.

These two parties have not seen eye-to-eye for some time.

Since being drafted by the Lions as the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, Suh too often saw a lack of sparkling dynamics in thinking and leadership and construction throughout the franchise. The Lions saw a talented, but moody, player who is not as smart as he thinks he is and was not as mature as they hoped.

You hear descriptions among Lions leadership of Suh, 28, including "a different kind of guy" and "a fascinating individual." Because his initial stomp issue was one of what would be a slew of penalties and fines for aggressive, after-the-whistle play, the Lions were always dancing with Suh, seeking control, yet not wanting to stoke his fire.

You hear appreciation. You hear frustration.

Many NFL coaches want gripping conformity. A player like Suh is a challenge.

"Obviously, a great player, a guy who does the things he is supposed to do, who stays in shape, practices hard, plays hard," a Lions management source said. "But he is a guy who has his ideas on how things should be done. And when he starts down that road some immaturities come out. In spite of how smart he thinks he is, sometimes the immaturity comes out."

Suh is one of those rare NFL players who remind me of former NFL running back Robert Smith. Smith used to say that coaches would often tell him that he was too intelligent for his own good. Smith would counter, "That is idiotic. How can a person be too intelligent?"

Many NFL coaches want gripping conformity. A player like Suh is a challenge. The issues that arise with that speak more to the coaches than to the players. Coaches who are ill-equipped to manage "intelligent"  players are weak coaches.

But Suh and his advisers' lingering views on how the Lions handled his initial stomp also reminds me of how Adrian Peterson views his child-abuse case dilemma. Peterson believes the Vikings did not support him enough. But Suh and Peterson created their issues and confuse "support" with the fact they are employees. It's tricky business. Especially when NFL teams often craft their organizations, their relationships with players as "we are family."

The Dolphins are getting Suh five full seasons into his career. They are receiving a four-time All-Pro player. He is rock-solid strong and he creates consistent chaos for offenses. He boosts the level of play of those around him. The Dolphins now have a man who stepped foot into the league thinking about his last NFL play as much as his first. One who wants to build an enduring empire and listens all-in to friends like business giant Warren Buffett. A player who enjoys business settings more than locker room banter.

A "progressive" man in search of his "progressive" place.

Pssst. Yes, Dolphins, the Lions offer a hint of advice.

"He'll do well for them, he is an outstanding player," a Lions management source said. "He has matured over the five seasons here and he will need to even more. But Miami better quickly learn to understand the product and the person they have. And that part of it, I assure you, will not be easy."

★★★