Ryan Clark Chats About Big Hits, Social Media
Posted on November 17, 2010 by adam
During Tuesdayís One Team Tour Tailgate Event in Pittsburgh there were a few current Steelers in attendance getting a chance to hang out with fans. One of the players was Steelers free safety Ryan Clark, and he was kind enough to take a couple of minutes and answer a few questions from yours truly. I knew I wasnít going to have enough time to cover many topics, so I went with one of the biggest on-field issues between the league and the players this season: Big hits.
Me: One of the biggest topics in the NFL this season, and itís kind of stolen the show, is the crackdown from the league on hits to the head and hits on defenseless players. It seems like a lot of people have tried to make one of your teammates, James Harrison, the poster child for this crackdown. Do you get the idea that the NFL wants to have it both ways? As has already been pointed out by others, the league loves to market the big hits, but it seems like theyíre awfully quick to throw flags and hand out fines.
Ryan Clark: I think itís part of why people like football. Itís part of why they watch. Because itís physical, because it is a manís game. Itís something that everybody canít do week in and week out. I donít know what the NFL is thinking whether they want it. I think the penalties and the way theyíre being handed out and the bureaucracy it goes through, itís just one guy. If you appeal, you appeal to the same guy that just gave you the fine. To make James the poster child of everything thatís been going wrong is wrong to me. Heís a guy that plays hard, he works hard, heís worked his way from the bottom, been cut a couple of times, and heís still here. So heís the poster boy for everything thatís right in this league.
Me: How much of a fine line is there with all of this? On one hand, you do have to play the game hard, and it is a physical game. I mean, when you lay a hit on a guy like Wes Welker coming over the middle it fires people up, not just the fans but also the players. But, on the other hand, concern over long-term health of the players is also something thatís a legitimate concern. Is there a fine line to walk here?
Ryan Clark: I think the biggest thing about the Wes Welker hit, I didnít hit his head. He had a concussion because his head hit to the ground. I didnít go head to head on him or anything like that. I actually wasnít fined for the hit. Itís a tough line to draw because the game has to be played at a certain level. You have to play the game hard or you put yourself at risk of injuries.
Me: If that hit would have happened this season after all of the uproar, do you think you would have been fined for it?
Ryan Clark: Iím not sure. But Iím making sure Iím not hitting guys that drop the ball, if I have time to see that theyíre in a vulnerable position and they donít have the ball I lay off of them. But other than that you play the game the same way. You play the game at high intensity and you play hard.
Me: Youíre getting a chance to meet with a lot of fans tonight, but youíre also very active on Twitter, which has really changed the way fans, and even players, interact with one another. Do you enjoy being right at the finger tips of a fans rant at any given moment?
Ryan Clark: [laughs] Itís cool. You get cursed out a couple of times, people see say some rude things, but thatís OK. For the most part playing here with the Steelers is so positive. So many people are behind us. Just look at tonight. This is not a game, this is not an event where they can actually see football. But theyíre still supporting us. I love being here and I love the social media and all of the interaction.
Me: Do the Steelers ever remind you to watch what you say on there, or do you have complete freedom to be as unfiltered as you like?
Ryan Clark: Nobody tells me anything because I probably wouldnít listen anyway. Iím going to speak about what I want to speak about and right now Iím about this union and one team.