By Larry Lage
The Associated Press
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions took advantage of being bad enough to have one of the top three picks in recent NFL drafts by selecting Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.
They’ve extended the contracts of two of those players, giving Johnson and Stafford news deals.
Suh seems to be next in line.
Is that anywhere on his mind?
“No, not really,” Suh insisted Saturday. “I’ve got two great years in front of me and I’m looking forward to it, especially this year, 2013, to be successful and to move on from there.”
Detroit drafted him No. 2 overall in 2010 and signed him to a five-year contract worth as much as $68 million. He started off well, becoming the only rookie on the All-Pro team and being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
After Suh’s production slipped in his second season, he bounced back with a solid year in 2012.
Suh is refusing to say what should be expected of him this season, his fourth in the league.
“I don’t want any limitations on my ability,” Suh said. “I want to be able to leave it open-ended, and have an opportunity to let the sky be the limit. If the sky is the limit, let the universe be the limit.”
And if Suh approaches his ambiguous goals, a lot more money will likely be coming his way from the Lions much like it was for Johnson and Stafford the past 17 months.
The Lions signed Johnson, an All-Pro receiver, in March of 2012 to an eight-year contract worth up to $132 million. Earlier this month, they extended Stafford’s deal by three years to keep him under contract for $76.5 million over five seasons. Detroit drafted Johnson No. 2 overall in 2007 and Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009.
“We need to look to that young nucleus of talent that we have. ... and begin to look to the future and extending those guys as well,” Lions president Tom Lewan said on July 10.
Suh appears to be doing his part to earn another big payday.
Teammates and coaches have noticed him taking on a larger leadership role, especially on the defensive line. The unit is without some veterans — Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams and Lawrence Jackson — it had last year.
Suh will have one familiar face next to him on the line, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, and a lot of new ones. Rookies Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor along with veterans Jason Jones, Israel Idonije and C.J. Mosley are among the newcomers.
Even though Mosely has been in the NFL for eight seasons, Suh gave the first-year Lions defensive tackle some tips before he took his turn during a drill on the second day of training camp.
“It seems like he’s opening up to more people and is willing to become more of a leader,” Lions center Dominic Raiola said. “There were a lot of expectations on Ndamukong as a young guy, getting thrown in the mix like he was supposed to be the savior of the defense, when he got here. Now, I think he’s ready to embrace anything thrown his way.”