Q&A: Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark follows Alan Faneca as the winner of The Chief Award, given annually -- by the Pro Football writers covering the Pittsburgh Steelers -- for cooperation with the media. Here's the transcript of the press conference for the award and a sampling of Clark's personality:

Ryan Clark, FS, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: What will your teammates say about you winning this award?

A: Well, you know, in Washington, everybody who won this award wasn't on the team the next year. I'm just saying. But it wasn't called The Chief Award. That's for Mr. Rooney. But in Washington, this wasn't a good thing. And I told you guys that before the voting and y'all still voted for me, so what does that say about me? That says y'all really don't want me here.

Begged and pleaded with you guys. I said, ‘You know guys, it's not really a good thing. You're not on the team next year.' What did y'all do? Voted for me. That shows me what you think about me. It really shows me. I still like y'all, though. I'll still do interviews, still pray for you guys, even if I'm not on the team next year 'cause y'all voted for me to win this award.

Q: Yes, but Alan Faneca's playing on a playoff team, isn't he?

A: Yeah, but he's not here though. Even though Pittsburgh has this great weather – and I mean it's awesome weather, the gray skies, cold, snowing, all that good stuff – people are happy to play here. Look at us. We have a good time. We have fun. It's like, I see guys on other teams, and they run to the end zone to celebrate, but it ain't the same. Playing here is special, so I don't know. But it is The Chief Award. In Washington it was like Nicest Guy To The Media. They couldn't even find a good name for it. It was like, This Dude's Pretty Cool When We Asked Him Questions. That was like the name of the award, so I don't know.

Q: Will we be able to get you on a conference call next year?

A: Nah. That's for superstars.

Q: Like with the Chargers or the Rams.

A: No. Hey, don't send me to the Rams. Oh, man. First you vote me out of here; then you send me to the Rams. Hell of a way to be a friend. Gosh.

Q: It's not like it's Survivor and we're voting you off the island.

A: I'm telling you that's what it's like. Who was it? Well, the year before I won it Champ Bailey won it and he wasn't there that year. I don't know, man. I remember Fred Smoot saying, ‘Man, if you win this award, you're not going to be on the team next year.' And sure enough, it worked every time.

Q: You could've been a jerk and not won.

A: Mama didn't raise me like that. Hey, you know, eventually, maybe one day soon, media's not going to want to talk to me anymore, so might as well be on TV as much as you can now. You know what I mean? Before I have to go home and be a stay-at-home dad, put my wife to work. I can't wait for that. She's not going to know what to do. That's going to be awesome. I'll cook lunch and dinner, cheeseburgers and french fries. I'd probably buy them from McDonald's though.

Q: You had said at training camp that you just don't care anymore. Is that why you've been so open this season?

A: I thought I'd always been a pretty engaging guy. I remember coming in here my first year here, for the last day. I had a good time on the mike. It was fun. So far as opening up like that, no. I think it's allowed me to have more fun playing, be excited about the team and where we're going because you don't have to worry so much about yourself. You don't have to worry about missing a play and stuff like that. You're just having a good time. I'm excited about the team's success; we've had a lot of it thus far. I think that's what it's allowed me to do: Enjoy the game a little bit more. It wasn't as much work as it had been for me in the past. My wife always makes fun of me because I'm always complaining when I get home that I'm tired from something at work. She said, ‘You don't work, you play. You play a game.' For the first year, I was actually playing a game, so it was cool.

Q: What brought that on? Being healthy again?

A: I guess almost not being able to play at all. Or having people make me feel like I wasn't going to play again. When you're sick like that and you go through things like losing a friend who was a great talent, kind of puts it in perspective that it's not promised tomorrow, that every play could be your last. So why not enjoy it? Why not have a smile on your face and be appreciative of that blessing? It's made football a lot more fun.

Q: Do you remember in the spring when you were here working out and they were bringing in one safety after another to look at?

A: I didn't notice it until you told me and then I saw Chris Crocker. That part never really bothered me because before that I was already supposed to lose my position to a guy who was already here. In the offseason I was 175 pounds. The last thing on my mind was what safety they were bringing in. I was trying to fit back in my clothes. That was a costly surgery. I had to buy new jeans, new shirts. So, the guys they brought in, I hadn't really thought about it. I just felt that if I was healthy, and God allowed me half a chance, and they gave me a fair opportunity, that was all I wanted. I just wanted an opportunity to play again, to go out there and show what I could do. They gave me that opportunity and I think it's worked out well.

Q: Was this your best year?

A: Yeah, I would probably say so. I'm not a very big guy now, but coming into the league I was pretty small. Every year I've picked up a little weight, gotten a little stronger, been able to hold up a little better, obviously till last year when I was sick. So I think every year I've improved. I wasn't one of those guys who came into the league a physical specimen. You see some of these guys come out now 6-2, 215, physically prepared to play right out of college. I wasn't, and I knew that, which probably led to me not being drafted. So I think every year I'm starting to mature a little more, and getting an opportunity to play, so I would say as far as the defense's success, and the team's success, I would say by far it's my best season.

Q: Were you always a hitter like this?

A: I can honestly say that anything that's been written about me since I became a starter in Washington, it's always been about hitting. First article I got in Washington, the name of the article was ‘Hammer Time.' I was 185, 190 pounds. I think here, maybe because of the style of play where I play the middle of the field and can move around a little more freely, I've gotten more opportunities. But that's always been what's gotten me on the field, being a small guy who's not afraid to stick his face in there. I think this year you give me my opportunities, and then you've got the guy in New England – who everybody seems to love – I think it just got a lot more pub. I mean, there are people who got their faces broken and things like that, but they didn't get as much pub as my hit. It's my job. It's what I try to do every year.

Q: Until this past game, there was still the chance of the Steelers being the wild card and having to play at Denver in the playoffs. Was that lost on you?

A: What!? No way. I looked at Denver's score every week. It was funny, Mr. Rooney, Mr. Art, talking to Coach Tomlin after the game; I got out of the shower and was walking by and I said, ‘Man, you know what's the best part of this?' They thought I had something profound to say. They said, ‘What?' like I was going to say something serious, something philosophical, and I said, ‘There's no shot of us playing in Denver.' And that's all I was thinking about because I asked the doctors before the season about going back to play there. Could I play? And they said, ‘Yes, you'll be fine. The organs that would be attacked if it was to happen again, you don't have.' In the medical world, that leads you to think, since you don't have those organs, that it won't attack anything. But in real life, in 25's world, Ryan Clark's world, you think, ‘Well, which organ will it pick this time?' But it was definitely something I'd been thinking about all season, especially given the situation that they might be 8-8 and still be division champions and we could be an 11-5, 12-4 wild card. So I thought about it.

Q: Isn't Denver on the schedule next year?

A: Yeah. Hopefully it'll be like Week 16 and we'll clinch by then and I'll be able to say, ‘Coach, since we clinched, there's really no reason for me to go out there and play. Matter of fact, I don't even need to make the trip.' But, nah, it'll be something I'll pray about. Knowing me, I'll want to play.

Q: The doctors have never been wrong about this illness, have they?

A: Never. I just want to say I've been treated very, very fairly and that is why I am still living today.

Q: Ryan, does it mean a lot to you to win this award?

A: No!!! I told y'all what happens when you win this award! You guys aren't understanding it! When you win this award, they FIRE you. It goes hand in hand: Win the award, get fired. So I don't know if they're saying don't be nice to the media or don't answer their questions. I don't know what they're saying, man. I thought -- because I was so nice to you guys and answered your questions, gave y'all a little comedy every now and then – that when I asked, ‘Hey guys, don't vote for me because if I win this they're going to fire me,' that y'all would be like, ‘I like this Ryan kid. He's pretty nice.' And look what y'all do to me. But, I will say this: This being The Chief Award, and what he's meant to the city and to football, the NFL in general, it's an honor to win that award, for it to be named that. Like I said, in Washington it was like The-Dude-That-Talks-To-The-Media-When-They-Ask-Questions-And-He-Doesn't-Cuss-Them Award. That was the name of it. But to win this award, The Chief Award, is a big honor.

Q: You know that Plaxico won this award in New York last year, don't you?

A: Ah, no comment on that. See you guys


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