View Full Version : Clark: I didn't come to here to be a backup

07-30-2006, 11:22 PM
Clark: I didn't come here to be a backup

By Joe Rutter
Monday, July 31, 2006

The gesture was subtle, yet it spoke volumes to Ryan Clark.
Despite getting a four-year contract and $1.7 million signing bonus to join the Steelers, Clark opened the team's first practice Sunday at St. Vincent College in Latrobe working with the second-team defense.

The 26-year-old free safety alternated series with Tyrone Carter and got some repetitions alongside Pro Bowl strong safety Troy Polamalu.

But it was Carter who got the first crack with the first team, and that didn't go unnoticed by Clark.

"I'm not running all the 'ones,' so I feel like I do have to compete for a job," Clark said. "I don't have a problem with that at all. In fact, I like it that way."

Knowing they were going to lose dependable free safety Chris Hope to free agency, the Steelers made a pre-emptive move March 14 by luring Clark away from the Washington Redskins.

A four-year veteran and two-year starter with Washington, Clark said he signed the contract knowing he wouldn't immediately be handed Hope's starting position. The Steelers still had Carter, who is entering his seventh season, on the payroll. Then, they used their second-round draft pick on Syracuse safety Anthony Smith.

"That spot is open, and the best man is going to win," Clark said. "The way I look at it is, if there's competition and it's tight, that means we all can play, and it only will make the team better."

Still, Clark let it be known he won't be satisfied playing behind Carter, Smith or anyone else.

"I want to be that guy," he said. "I didn't come here to be a backup. I came here wanting to start for the world champions. That's my goal. That's what I pray for every night. But, if it doesn't end up that way, I'll do my role and handle my assignments."

The night before the first practice, Clark said he stayed up until midnight studying the Steelers' playbook.

"I'm trying to get the system down," he said. "If I can't keep up with the guys, mentally, I'm not going to be able to play physically. I want to know the playbook like the guys that have been here for years. I don't want there to be any drop-off."

Carter acknowledged that his familiarity with the Steelers' scheme gives him a slight advantage -- at least, initially -- over Clark. Although he hasn't started a game since 2003, when he was with the New York Jets, the 30-year-old Carter played in 25 games the past two seasons and is entering his second camp with the Steelers.

"I have a step ahead by knowing the defense a little more," Carter said. "But Ryan has started in this league for two years. He did a great job in Washington, and he's a smart player. I don't think it will take him long to learn everything."

Carter said he won't be taking his opportunity to start for the defending Super Bowl champions lightly.

"They're not giving anybody anything here," he said. "You've got to earn it. The only thing I can control is doing my best, and that's what I'm going to do -- give my best. I'll do what I can as a football player to help the team, and I'm going to be accountable.

"Whatever happens, I'll know I did my best."

Time will tell if it's good enough to beat out Clark, the only player brought in from another organization competing for a starting job.

Last season, Clark had 72 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a half sack while playing in the same secondary as Redskins Pro Bowl free safety Sean Taylor.

Like Polamalu, Taylor thrives on improvisation and confusing the quarterback. Clark thinks he can use the experience of playing alongside Taylor to his advantage while adjusting to Polamalu's free-wheeling style.

"They're similar in the fact they make a lot of plays that other people can't make," Clark said. "Sometimes, they're going to make mistakes, and the reason they came to get me was because I played with a guy like Sean. Troy can do his thing; I just want to fit in."

07-30-2006, 11:29 PM
After every interview I'm liking this kid more and more. Has his head on straight with an excellent attitude and I believe he will beat out Carter and Smith and will make a very good replacement for Hope.

07-30-2006, 11:49 PM
Fiesty. :smile: Thanks for the post. Now I DO know who he is. Yeah, I think I'll like him more.

BTW, does anybody have a link to some nice training day photos? Not the movie with Denzel. I love the movie, but I need Steelers training day photos. Ha ha ha. Just kidding about the movie, sorry. I'm in a fun mood.

07-31-2006, 01:21 AM
Thanx for posting this.. I also believe that clark will b our starting safety beating out smith and carter...

07-31-2006, 04:01 AM
It's all about attitude. That the guy stayed up until midnight and studied the playbook says a lot about him. I'm much more excited about Clark than, say, Holmes. :bouncy:

07-31-2006, 06:23 AM
I like this guy's competitive spirit and his very positive attitude. He knows the position isn't going to be handed to him on a silver platter and that he will have to earn it. I definitely think he has what it takes to fit right in. :cool:

07-31-2006, 06:53 AM
BTW, does anybody have a link to some nice training day photos?


Below Ben throwing the football click on "Next" photo. The first five are of Ben of course, but after that they actually start showing other players on this roster. Enjoy.

07-31-2006, 07:07 AM
Outstanding....I had mild concerns about a "Super Bowl Hangover"....but I am really liking where this team's head is at this early....

07-31-2006, 08:11 AM
"I want to be that guy," he said. "I didn't come here to be a backup. I came here wanting to start for the world champions. That's my goal. That's what I pray for every night. But, if it doesn't end up that way, I'll do my role and handle my assignments."

Sounds good to me. I'm hoping this kid wins the job.

Black@Gold Forever32
07-31-2006, 11:24 AM
I liked the signing of Ryan Clark when it happened. I like it even more now. This guy seems like the Steelers type of player. As soon as he gets our defense down. He will prove to be better then Chris Hope.

07-31-2006, 11:25 AM
It's nice to see some determined position battles out on the field already. We should have some heated battles at FS and WR specifically. I also think Verron will push for the second running back spot. This should be a fun camp to follow, and I can't wait until that first preseason game.

07-31-2006, 01:13 PM
It's always good when players aren't given the job right away - competition brings out the best in players and improves their overall focus going into camp and the preseason games, and ultimately the regular season. But no matter who wins the job, both of them will get significant playing time.

08-03-2006, 06:45 AM
Free safeties Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter safeties back up Polamalu
Cover Polamalu's back while he roams field making highlight-reel interceptions and tackles
Thursday, August 03, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Playing free safety for the Steelers has one primary requirement: Knowing how to cover for Troy Polamalu.

That means Polamalu's partner must serve as the border patrol for a defense that allows the two-time Pro Bowl strong safety to roam the field.

Ryan Clark was accustomed to doing that with the Washington Redskins, where he was the free safety in a secondary that had Sean Taylor, a Polamalu-type player, at strong safety.

But it has been something of an adjustment for Tyrone Carter, a former strong safety, who is accustomed to making a lot of tackles and plays with the aggressive nature of a linebacker.

Clark was the team's only major signing in free agency, brought in from the Redskins to replace departed Chris Hope as Polamalu's partner in the secondary. But the Steelers have not handed Clark, a fifth-year veteran, the starting job. They are making him compete at free safety with Carter, whom the coaches believe earned the opportunity after the way he performed in the playoffs and Super Bowl.

The players are taking turns rotating with the first-team defense at training camp. Yesterday, it was Carter's turn to run with the first unit at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

For a multimedia presentation about day six at Camp Cowher, click on the image above.
"If you look at our games, particularly in the last quarter of the season, you're going to see Ty Carter make a lot of plays, a lot of big plays, in those playoff games," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "In our stretch drive, he made play after play after play."

Carter would seem to be more of a long shot to be the starter because he is an aggressive player whose instincts are to come up and stop the run. At the University of Minnesota, where he was the school's first two-time All-American in 36 years, Carter twice led the Big 10 in tackles and holds the school's career tackle record (528).

But in two seasons with the Steelers, he has learned to play with a little more restraint. When the Steelers used their quarter defensive package featuring six defensive backs last season, Carter was the third safety who was responsible for deep coverage. He played so much in the wild-card playoff victory in Cincinnati he finished with seven solo tackles.

"Being antsy and playing strong safety all my career, I'm always up there reading and trying to come in and make a play," Carter said. "But, as the free safety, you got to be the safe guy back there.

"I try to be more patient, when I see things. I can't react fast to it. I got to let it develop. I got a guy who's going to do that in Troy, so we can't have both of us back there trying to be aggressive and trying to make stuff happen."

Clark got a taste of that with the Redskins when he was paired with Taylor, a former No. 1 draft pick who is big, fast and makes plays all over the field. Like Polamalu, Taylor is a Pro Bowl player.

A former undrafted free agent, Clark had 72 tackles (48 solo) and three interceptions in 13 games last season with the Redskins. His biggest game was against his former team, the New York Giants, when he had a career-high 14 tackles (11 solos) and his first career interception.

"You have to know that you're not going to be counted on to make all the plays, so you need to be there to back [Polamalu] up," Clark said. "Those guys have free rein to use their athletic ability. You don't draft a guy like Troy and try to hold him back. You take the reins off and let him make plays. That's what makes him a Pro Bowler."

Another reason the Steelers liked Clark is because he played in an attacking defense with the Redskins that used a lot of zone pressure, similar to the what LeBeau uses. Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was the head coach in Buffalo when LeBeau spent a season there as the Bills' assistant head coach.

"He comes from a pressure scheme," LeBeau said. "They do a lot of zone pressure. It's going to be a lot different than someone who came from a team that was all man pressure and didn't play any zone. He's had background in what we do, and I think it's helped him. He's going to do well."

It has certainly helped Clark get acclimated more quickly to the Steelers' defensive scheme, which can be more complex than a Rubik's Cube. At free safety, Clark also will be responsible for calling the defensive changes in the secondary at the line of scrimmage.

Still, his biggest responsibility will be to make sure he is there to cover for Polamalu.

"I've been caught up in that a couple times so far since we've been here," Clark said. "A couple out routes I've been breaking on hard and Ben [Roethlisberger] was scrambling, and the guy got behind me and I had to chase him down. I'm going to have to learn to be more patient and know every play is not to be an interception, just get the defense off the field."