View Full Version : It wasn't night off for Clark

11-11-2009, 09:03 AM
It wasn't night off for Clark
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wasn't the point of not dressing safety Ryan Clark for the Steelers-Denver Broncos game Monday night to protect him from exerting himself in the mile-high altitude of Invesco Field?

I gotta tell you, it didn't work.

That was Clark running up the sideline, parroting teammate Tyrone Carter on his way to the end zone after Carter's second-quarter interception. It was Clark leaping high into the air to chest-bump Carter as he came back to the bench after his touchdown gave the Steelers a 7-3 lead. That was Clark bounding on and off the field during timeouts to counsel the defensive backs, something he always does when he is playing. And it was Clark sprinting to the locker room after the game, screaming, "I don't have to play anymore! They don't need me to win!"

That not-exerting-yourself business, as it turned out, can be pretty exerting.

"Yeah, I'm glad I don't have my spleen anymore," Clark said, playfully.

It's no wonder the man was all smiles. The Steelers beat the Broncos, 28-10, to remain in a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) -- the opponent Sunday at Heinz Field -- in the AFC North Division. His replacement -- Carter -- had not one, but two interceptions. Best of all, he was going to get on the airplane with his teammates for the flight home.

"That was my main goal on this trip," Clark said. "I couldn't do that the last time I was here. I had to go to the hospital."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn't taking any chances with Clark this time. Tomlin had to know all along that he wasn't going to play Clark against the Broncos, that it just wasn't worth even the slightest risk to his health, especially not with such a capable backup as Carter. In 2007, when the Steelers played in Denver, and Clark really exerted himself, he had major complications because of the sickle-cell trait in his blood. He ended up losing his spleen, gall bladder and 30 pounds. His football career was in jeopardy. His life was in jeopardy.

But Tomlin had no problem with Clark making the trip to Denver. The doctors encouraged it, actually. They were certain Clark's spleen had caused his problems, but they wanted a little more proof -- just to be safe.

That's why Clark ran three laps around the field and 15 sprints across it before the game. The doctors monitored his oxygen levels and took his urine for testing.

"I did fine," Clark said. "I think I'll be able to play here in January if we have to come back."
You know, for a playoff game.

Tomlin and the docs are on the ball, aren't they?

A Steelers-at-Denver playoff game seems unlikely now, though. It's hard to think the Broncos -- despite their 6-2 record -- are good enough to get a home playoff game. Not with mediocre quarterback Kyle Orton. Even if the Steelers and Broncos end up with the same record, the Steelers would have the tiebreaker edge because of the win Monday night.

How ironic is it that Carter played such a major role?

He and Clark talked before the game. "I told him, 'I'll play for you. I'll be there for you,' " Carter recalled. Then, he went out and intercepted Orton twice. "I just followed his eyes," Carter said. "He doesn't look you off very often like [Brett] Favre and [Tom] Brady do. He locks in on his receiver."

Carter's first interception was huge. "If we score on defense, we know we'll have a good chance of winning," he said. The second interception, in the final minute, merely added to Orton's and the Broncos' agony.

"I'm glad now I didn't play," Clark said, grinning again. "Ty did an awesome job. I probably would have messed things up."

What a luxury Carter is as a backup. In two starts for Clark last season when Clark was out with a separated shoulder, Carter had three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

"He's always been a playmaker," Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend said of Carter. "We tease him all the time that he's the only one of our defensive backs to win the Jim Thorpe Award [at Minnesota in 1999 as the best defensive back in college football] ...

"That's why they call it a team. Depth tells the true measure of any team. We've got a lot of guys ready to step in when their number is called. They just need an opportunity."

Clark will be back in the lineup for the big game Sunday. The Steelers will need him to beat the Bengals. He's not just a ferocious hitter. He helps linebacker James Farrior get the defense lined up correctly.

Clark won't lack motivation for reasons that go beyond the game's significance. For one thing, he figures the Steelers owe the Bengals a little something after their 23-20 loss at Cincinnati Sept. 27. He blamed the secondary for that fourth-quarter collapse. For another thing ...

Just say Clark is enough of a student of sports to know that Yankees history didn't start with Jeter, Matsui and A-Rod.

"I had better get back fast and play well before I lose my job," he said. "I don't want to be like Wally Pipp."



I have to admit, when I saw Ryan jumping around and chest thumping Carter, I screamed "Nooooo!" :chuckle:

Justin Otstott
11-11-2009, 10:09 AM
Nice post!!!

11-11-2009, 10:47 AM
Haha, thanks for the story. I remember seeing him running around like a little kid a lot of the times and thought "he might as well have just played" lol.

Great to hear his is doing well and that his test runs came back a-ok.

11-11-2009, 12:16 PM
That is quite hilarious.

Glad to hear that everything when well....

But Clark--Next time coach sits you so you can rest and be healthy-- SIT DOWN! :chuckle:

Fire Haley
11-11-2009, 12:17 PM
"I did fine," Clark said. "I think I'll be able to play here in January if we have to come back."

So the experiment was a success.

11-11-2009, 12:42 PM
my son commented twice about how clark isnt resting at all. I think it is awesome to have a guy like him i hope he is the first off season resign.

11-11-2009, 12:54 PM
Good to know he'll be able to play in January if needed at Denver. Although, I don't suspect we'll be travelling there, maybe not travelling at all.