Clark wants to play

Ryan Clark, the Steelers' starting free safety, wants to play against his old team in the worst way, but a dislocated right shoulder has his return to Washington D.C. in doubt.

PITTSBURGH – Ryan Clark cringed when he heard that his coach, Mike Tomlin, dubbed him as "doubtful" for Monday night's game in Washington.

"Doubtful," he said with emphasis. "I know, man."

Clark thinks it's a crazy assessment, because the shoulder he dislocated – while breaking up Eli Manning's deep pass to Steve Smith on Sunday – feels good today. In fact, the Steelers' savvy free safety felt he could've gone back into the game after the medical staff popped the shoulder back into place.

"They walked me down in the tunnel and popped it back in, and then they sternly told me I could not play. It was like, ‘Don't ask,'" he said. "When they popped it in, I felt like I could go back in, but those muscles are stretched out and stuff, so you've got to just wait."

The medics told Clark he'd have to sit out a week, but since the game is played on Monday, he has an extra day on his side.

"That helps awesomely," he said. "They said I can't play in a week. Technically, that's Sunday, so Monday I should be good, right?"

Clark wants to play against his old team in the worst way, but not for – as he calls it – the "vindictive" angle.

Clark, of course, was allowed to leave the Redskins as a free agent following the 2005 season. He'd started 13 games next to his good friend Sean Taylor in 2005, but the Redskins wanted an athletic upgrade at the position, and Clark had come into the league undrafted out of LSU. So the Redskins paid big money for free agent Adam Archuleta, who started seven games in 2006 for the Redskins before being cut loose.

In 2007, Taylor, the other half of 2004-05 Redskins safety tandem, was murdered in his home. Clark has since tried to pay tribute to his old friend, but the NFL wouldn't allow him to change uniform numbers this past offseason.

Clark wears No. 25, but appealed to the league to have his number switched to Taylor's old No. 21. The Steelers had brought Mewelde Moore aboard, but waited for the league to turn Clark down before giving Moore the number.

Clark did wear No. 21 throughout spring and summer practices, and last week wrote No. 21 in his eye black. He was fined $5,000 by the league, but says he'll continue doing it.

"The money's not important. They're going to take that with taxes anyway," Clark said.

Asked what his wife thinks of that philosophy, Clark said: "Not very much. No, she's not very happy with me."

But his wife's happy with the way Steelers fans have reacted to his latest injury. After Clark missed the second half of last season due to an emergency spleen-ectomy, it became clear the team needed him, as they need him against the Redskins.

"My wife said we finally found a place we're appreciated, and it's good," Clark said.

But Clark also understands why the Steelers are being cautious with this injury.

"I thought all season about making a play in Washington and getting an opportunity to point to Sean Taylor's number in the Ring of Fame," he said. "But I'm going to be honest about my injury and give the right input, because we're going to be playing in January – hopefully February – and I want to be a part of the team then."

NOTES – Willie Parker returned to practice, while nine teammates sat out the Wednesday workout. … Punter Mitch Berger won't test the hamstring on his plant leg until Friday, when the team will make a decision on whether to activate Ricky Schmitt from the practice squad. … The Steelers would've preferred to kickoff following the safety on Sunday, but NFL rules now forbid the use of tees in that situation. … Former four-weight world champion Roy Jones Jr. visited the South Side facility yesterday. He's training at California (Pa.) University for his Nov. 8 fight at Madison Square Garden against undefeated Joe Calzaghe. Jones is a lifelong Steelers fan and a close friend of Mewelde Moore.

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