ATLANTA — When the name is brought up, John Sullivan wants you to know he knows where you are going with this.
And so, the seemingly innocent query — “What do you think of Ndamukong Suh’’ — swiftly brings this response from the Rams starting center:
“We had some history,’’ Sullivan said.
Yes, Sullivan and Suh had some history. Bad history. And now they are teammates, banded together to try to beat the Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII.
“You don’t get to know a guy personally just because you see him twice a year in the division,’’ Sullivan told The Post on Thursday at the Rams team hotel. “He’s a fantastic guy, very smart, incredibly hard worker and very productive on the field.’’
What transpired on the field Sept. 8, 2013 in Detroit did not endear Suh, playing defensive tackle for the Lions, to Sullivan, the Vikings’ center. On an interception return by Lions’ linebacker DeAndre Levy, Sullivan gave chase and was cut down by Suh. A flag was thrown, Levy’s touchdown return was called back and Suh was flagged for a personal foul penalty for an illegal low block.
Sullivan, who underwent knee surgery the previous season, had to be helped off the field and eventually was diagnosed with a left knee contusion, though he was able to play the following week.
At the time, Sullivan said, “There’s a reason that play is illegal. It’s incredibly dangerous.’’
Suh’s reputation and history of dirty plays prompted the NFL to fine him $100,000 for the hit — at the time the largest fine ever for an on-field incident.
“I knew he was a competitor, it seemed like at times he had a few of those moments, like what happened between the two of us,’’ Sullivan said. “Stuff happens on the football field. It’s a competitive, driven environment and sometimes guys make mistakes. I actually thought what happened between us was an honest mistake. I mean, I understand you’re not supposed to cut-block people on interception returns, but if you’re trying to make a play for your team, I can empathize and understand how that might have happened.’’
Suh prior to this season signed with the Rams and, just like that, he and Sullivan were teammates. There was no dramatic hug-it-out moment.
“I harbored no ill will coming into this thing,’’ Sullivan said.
“I got that question a lot when he was first signed, and ultimately I don’t care anything about who somebody is, as long as they can help us win and as long as they are willing to buy into the culture and fall in line with the rest of the group.
“We’re a ‘We, not me’ bunch, and no individual is bigger than the team, but any individual, regardless of anything you can say about them, if they can help us win, they’re welcomed here with open arms.’’