Q&A Ryan Clark

Steelers free safety Ryan Clark rips into the NFL for his most recent fine, and also talks about the game-winning touchdown last Sunday as well as the potential for a letdown this Sunday.

Ryan Clark, safety, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ryan Clark was fined by the NFL on Wednesday for the second time this season, this time he was docked $40,00 for a hit on Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson that drew a 15-yard penalty in the second quarter of Sunday night's game. Clark was asked by a group of reporters if it was an illegal hit.

RC: It wasn't. I did everything I was asked to do. [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell and all those other guys who sit in the office with their suits make these decisions on split-second reactions by the players, and this time it's wrong. There's nothing they can say or tell me to make me feel like it's right. There's no way they can write me a letter or call me to the office to say anything. There's [NFL executive vice-president] Ray Anderson, I think this is his situation. [Executive director of NFL Players Association] Dee Smith needs to step in, too. The hit wasn't malicious at all. I know how to knock somebody out if I want to knock them out. If I wanted to put him to sleep, I'd have put him to sleep, but I didn't want to. I was trying to just make a play on the ball. It was the only way I would have the opportunity to make a play on the ball. If you watch the film I tucked my head to the left, almost turned my back completely to him by the time the hit was finished. It's just wrong. Am I supposed to let him catch it? And then wait for him and hug him? Or should I throw a pillow at him? Should I blow a whistle? "Hey, look I'm about to tackle you." No, that's not football, and there was nothing malicious about it. It wasn't a spear. It wasn't a forearm to the head. It wasn't any of those things. And to be fined $40,000 for that? I mean, it's either targeting me as a single player or it's targeting this team as we've talked about before. I try to take the high road on a lot of things. I've been asked a lot of questions about hits this year, and I always say ‘if it's not involving me, I'm out of it.' I didn't want us to be the team constantly complaining about hits, but this is ridiculous.

Q: What was the NFL's explanation?

RC: They didn't give me an explanation. Coach [Mike] Tomlin came to me. He got an e-mail I guess that told him I was going to be fined. But this, this is the worst, period point blank.

Q: Will you appeal it?

RC: But you appeal it to the same people. Somebody else needs to step in because I'm done with it. It's not that I respected Rodger before this for the way he's running the game, but this is really ridiculous. It's a football play. There wasn't any malicious play. It was to get the ball out. I actually even hit the ball. He didn't even fall backwards.

Q: The defenseless wide receiver scope has expanded this year. Do you think you were still in the right?

RC: I did. ‘Defenseless' is part of what the play looks like, but it's about the way you attack to hit him. If I'd have jumped up and put my facemask on his helmet, or put the crown of my helmet in his neck or his facemask, I'd understand it. But I didn't. I turned my head all the way to the left as far as it could go, so unless I get a longer neck or smaller head there's nothing else I can do. By the time contact was fully made my back was almost turned to him. If I'm going to put that much effort into not committing the foul, and you give me $40,000 for that? I might as well put him to sleep for real. If you're going to fine me $40,000, I might as well put him to sleep for real or blow his knee out.

Q: Ray Lewis put Hines Ward to sleep. What happened there?

RC: I don't know. They don't care about that. Ray Lewis don't play for us, so they like him. (Lewis was fined $20,000 for the hit that put Ward "to sleep," but unlike with Clark and the Steelers, the Ravens were not penalized for the play.)

Q: What did the official say on the field?

RC: All my teammates were asking him. It wasn't even important to me, honestly, because there was nothing he was going to be able to tell me that was going to make me understand. Will Gay asked if it was helmet to helmet, he was like, ‘No, but I saw his helmet go back.'

Q: So they're reacting to what they hear?

RC: A blatant hit on Hines Ward to the head that wasn't flashy, didn't look like much, but per the rule is an infraction. Whereas a hit like mine was fast, quick, it looks explosive, and you make a knee-jerk reaction to that. Then once you throw the flag then you have the Cris Collinsworths of the world saying, ‘He's going to get fined. He's going to get fined.' And then you get Schefter and Mort, ‘He's going to get fined. He's going to get fined.' I feel they had to come out and do something. But this is nothing like the situations from last year where guys were actually making helmet-to-helmet contact with heads down and spearing. It was nothing like that. So to fine me $40,000 for that, he's obviously trying to prove a point. There's nothing Roger could tell me, Ray Anderson. Dee Smith can't call me and tell me I'm wrong. This is something we watched in slow-mo as a team to say, ‘If you're going to try to dislodge the ball from somebody, this is the way you should do it. This is the legal way you should do it.'

Q: Your team was watching that hit?

RC: Monday.

Q: Who said that, Tomlin?

RC: Yeah. This is what we talked about in our meeting: ‘If you're going to go make a play, this is how you should make it.'

Q: He used your hit as an example?

RC: Yeah.

Q: Was he as upset as you are?

RC: Yeah. Everybody's upset. First of all, it put points on the board. That's first and foremost. And then you talk about a play we have that we don't get and we had to kick a field goal. So there's the discrepancy in that. And $40,000 for that? Hey, last week I was wrong. I didn't see the guy went out of bounds. I kept playing. I take that. You're trying to keep a player safe. I totally agree with you. If a guy's out of bounds you shouldn't hit him. I didn't even argue that. I even applauded the NFL for trying to keep players safe. But they're going to get me hurt if I have to do something like that. They're going to get me hurt or fired.

Q: So, if you have to do that 10 more times this season do you make that hit?

RC: I don't know how to do anything else. I don't know how to be better. I do not.

(Ben Roethlisberger from a nearby locker: It was completely legal, that's why.)

Q: What recourse do you have?

RC: None. You can appeal but it would be an appeal to the same person. The same man is going to sit across – no, he's not going to sit across from because I'm not going to sit across from him, unless they handcuff me – which is probably the next step anyway.

Q: In the last game, you guys seemed on point for almost all but the last drive. How does the secondary proceed from here?

RC: You've just got to keep playing. The last play was me. It was a miscommunication between Will and I. He thought I was going to be over the top and I wasn't. That's fixed. I had to get the call from Larry [Foote] and understand it better. The rest of it, [Joe] Flacco made some throws. We were sitting a little soft in some of our zones. But you have to give the Ravens all the credit. They made the plays and we didn't. I didn't; one play in particular. That's the thing about football. I don't know if I've had a mental minus this season, but you get one on a play like that and it hurts the team. I've been sick about it for days.

Q: Isn't it natural on third-and-10 to shade Anquan Boldin over the middle instead of a rookie who just dropped one?

RC: Yeah, it is, and that had been my concentration for the drive, but that really was a situation to where I was playing a totally different defense. My focus was on Boldin but I should've been looking over William also. I can't leave him out to dry like that.

Q: This week would seem to be a classic letdown scenario—

RC: I agree.

Q: A low-energy thing before a vacation—

RC: Right, right.

Q: What can be done to prevent that?

RC: Honestly, maybe the loss helps in that regard. Would I have rather won that game and try to deal with not having a letdown? Yes, but we can't. We're 0 and 2 in the AFC North already, and facing a team that's 6-2 and basically in the driver's seat to get a playoff spot. We have to beat them. We have no choice.

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