Detroit Lions player Dominic Raiola
Detroit Lions player Dominic Raiola stands on the field during pre-game warm-up before their NFL season home opener football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Detroit, Michigan September 18, 2011. Reuters

The National Football League (NFL) suspended Dominic Raiola of the Detroit Lions for a single game without pay after an incident where the centre stepped on the ankle of Ego Ferguson of the Chicago Bears. Raiola apologised already to Ferguson after the game but the league is not looking the other way as Raiola will miss the Lions’ final game of the regular season against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Dec. 28.

The official technical ruling is that Raiola violated the league’s “safety-related rules” and the dangerous play by Raiola was considered unsafe by the NFL, which noted that this is the "safety-related rules violation since 2010” by the Lions centre. Raiola also was fined $10,000 earlier this season for unnecessary roughness after hitting the back of the head of Zach Moore of the New England Patriots earlier in the regular season.

Raiola can appeal the ruling but if he misses the game rookie Travis Swanson will play in his place. As part of the rule, Raiola cannot go to official team meetings or events during his suspension. One Ferguson teammate criticised Raiola for his dirty tactics.

"One game, one game, one game? That's terrible," Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said in his radio show. "I don't even know Ego's injury. Is he OK? What if he broke it? What if he broke his ankle? If he breaks Ego's ankle, and Ego never plays again, how much money does that guy miss out on? This is what he does for a living. This is what he's done all his life. He's what, 22, 23? He doesn't even know his purpose yet. He doesn't even know what he's gonna do after football. He's still figuring out what life is about.

Detroit and Green Bay, both of which are at 11-4 for the season are tied atop the NFC North. The winner on Sunday will most likely earn the first round bye and the loser will go on to play as one of the wild card teams. Like the Lions and Packers, the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals are also qualified for the postseason with the same 11-4 record. In Week 17, there are still crucial games for the playoff teams with the final positioning to be decided by the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams match-ups in the final week of the regular season.