Steelers' Ryan Clark: Fighting The Good Fight

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IOctober 30, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Safety Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Ryan Terry Clark is yet another undrafted free agent pickup that is starting on one of the most storied defenses in the NFL.

The former LSU Tiger was an undrafted rookie in 2002 when the New York Giants signed him to play mostly special teams. After the bye week he was waived and signed to the Giants practice squad.

The very next year, he came back with fire in his soul, and appeared in every game for the Giants that season, starting four of them.

In 2004 he got a change of scenery, playing for the Washington Redskins . Due to injuries, he started 11 games that year, and was fourth on the team in tackles with 91.

Two years later, he’d find himself taking the spot of veteran safety Chris Hope in the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary. In 2007 Clark kept his starting job intact after a training camp battle with fellow safety Anthony Smith .

Alas in the 2007 season he had to have both his gall bladder and spleen removed due to a blood disorder stemming from Sickle Cell traits. He lost 30 pounds that year, and was literally fighting for his life.

He returned to the Steelers during the 2008 season and helped the team win a Super Bowl, whilst reminding people that he is a ferocious hitter from the safety position.

Need proof? Take a look at his hit on Wes Welker of the New England Patriots , his hit on Willis McGahee of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, and this past Sunday his hit on Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings .

Clark may not play come November 9 against the Denver Broncos , and no one will be able to blame him. Twice in his career he has had medical problems stemming from playing in the high altitude of Mile High Stadium, most notably in October of 2007 when he was hospitalized directly after the game.

That was when he had the surgeries, the spleen in November and the gall bladder in December. Many thought that he’d never play again after fighting for his life, but he returned to prove everyone wrong.

Chances are that he plays, as long as there will be no complications due to his illness mixed with the altitude.

Toughness is not an issue with Clark. He’s proved time and again that he has no problem playing through pain, as evidenced by the dislocated shoulder he sustained that only kept him out a week.

He’s playing not only for himself, but for fellow safety and former Redskins teammate Sean Taylor . He still wears number 21 during practices to pay tribute to the former University of Miami star.

Even if he doesn’t play, there is no reason that his commitment or ability to play through pain should be questioned. I won’t have it.


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