I have been way too hard on Ryan Clark the past couple of years. The soon to be former Pittsburgh Steeler safety, has it all figured it out and all I can do is stand in awe of his brilliance.
Over the last few years, Clark has shown some interest in being a television personality. His many spots on ESPN during these years were an obvious attempt to prove he could join the legion of former NFL players that the worldwide leader employs.
I’ve been critical of Clark for a couple of reasons regarding this. First of all, I have no problem with anyone looking out for their future after the game of football but I prefer players do that while still focusing on the task at hand.
Clark used bye weeks to travel to Bristol to do segments on ESPN and that’s his right to do so.
The problem is often what Clark has had to say during his segments. In 2013, Clark used his appearances to call out Tom Brady and Danny Amendola who eventually put 55 points on Clark and his teammates. He also called his secondary mate Troy Polamalu the “third-best safety in football.” Clark may have been right about that but is that something you really say?
He also used an appearance to lay blame on the team’s 0-4 start in 2013 on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. While Roethlisberger clearly wasn’t at his best, is it a good idea to call him out? Clark later backtracked on the comments.
So today there was Ryan Clark on ESPN once again and this time the topic was marijuana and players in the NFL. Clark was clear that he doesn’t use marijuana but had no problem stating that he knows players that do. He mentioned they use it mostly for pain management more than anything. Had Clark just stopped there he would have been fine.
But he couldn’t…. He just had to mention that he knows Steelers’ players that use marijuana. Again I ask the question, “Why Ryan?” All Clark has done is create a firestorm and this is why he is the smartest man in football.
Without so much as lacing up a cleat, Ryan Clark made himself a topic of conversation. And you know what? There will be absolutely no consequence for him to deal with either. He knows he is at the end of his career in Pittsburgh so he has carte blanche to say whatever he wants.
It also makes him instantly more attractive to ESPN because he will be one of their few “experts” who won’t sugarcoat anything. He’ll say what he wants to, throw former teammates under the bus and create exactly the atmosphere he wants to have.
I’ve always appreciated Clark as a player and now I can really appreciate his calculated plan to become an NFL analyst. Ryan is clearly the smartest man in football.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 730pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.