NEW YORK — Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can play in Detroit’s wild-card game after his one-game NFL suspension was reduced to a $70,000 fine.
Hearing officer Ted Cottrell heard Suh’s expedited appeal Tuesday and ruled that Suh can play Sunday at Dallas but must pay the fine.
Suh originally was suspended for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ left leg twice Sunday in a loss to Green Bay for the NFC North title. He stepped on Rodgers once with each foot, which violated unnecessary roughness rules, according to the league.
But Cottrell, jointly appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, rescinded the suspension.
The Lions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Suh has a long list of fines and one previous suspension, for two games in 2011 for stepping on the right arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Suh has been fined eight times in his career, but this is the first in 2014.
Suh was fined $100,000 for an illegal block on Vikings center John Sullivan in Week 1 of 2013 during an interception return. That was the largest fine in NFL history for on-field conduct, not counting suspensions.
The suspension was imposed Monday by Merton Hanks, the NFL’s vice president of football operations. Hanks ruled that Suh engaged in a non-football act that placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury.
In his letter to Suh, Hanks wrote, “You did not respond in the manner of someone who had lost his balance and accidentally contacted another player who was lying on the ground. This illegal contact, specifically the second step and push off with your left foot, clearly could have been avoided.”
Hanks further noted “you unnecessarily stepped on your opponent’s unprotected leg as he lay on the ground unable to protect himself.”
Cottrell’s decision means the Lions will have one of their key defensive cogs. Suh finished the season with a team-high 8 1/2 sacks and helped Detroit rank second overall and first in run defense.
Ravens’ Ngata elated to be back
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Haloti Ngata is back on the field with the Baltimore Ravens after serving a four-game suspension for using the amphetamine Adderall.
Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, returns in time for Baltimore’s playoff game Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
The 30-year-old acknowledged Tuesday that he “made a mistake” by using a substance banned by the NFL. Ngata said he felt as if he was in retirement watching football on television during the season.
Now that he’s back, Ngata said, “I just feel like I owe these guys.”
He joked that his teammates are yelling “Fresh legs!” in his direction.
After a light practice Tuesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was convinced that Ngata is game-ready.
The coach said, “He looks good and I’m sure he is.”
Cowboys’ Melton out of playoffs
IRVING, Texas — Dallas defensive tackle Henry Melton will miss the playoffs because of a right knee injury suffered in the regular-season finale at Washington.
Melton, who missed most of last season in Chicago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a bruised right knee.
Dallas replaced Melton by signing linebacker James Anderson, a third-round pick by Carolina in 2006. Anderson spent seven seasons with the Panthers and one in Chicago before playing in seven games with Tennessee this season.
The Cowboys (12-4) are at home against Detroit (11-5) in a wild-card game Sunday.
Melton led the Cowboys in sacks most of the season, but didn’t have one in the final seven games.
Steelers sign Tate as backup plan
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are preparing for life without injured running back Le’Veon Bell.
The Steelers signed well-traveled Ben Tate on Tuesday as a backup plan in case Bell’s hyperextended right knee does not heal in time for Saturday night’s wild-card game against Baltimore.
Coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers will “leave the light” on for the team MVP but is moving forward as if he will not play. Bell suffered injured the knee in the third quarter of last week’s win over Cincinnati. While Tomlin said there is no structural damage to the knee, Bell remains in significant pain.
Tate ran for 371 yards and four touchdowns this season for Cleveland and Minnesota. The Vikings released him two weeks ago.