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Ryan Clark Prepares To Run The Defense

Posted Apr 3, 2014

Ryan Clark returns to the Washington Redskins after eight years in Pittsburgh. On the day he signed, the safety talked about assuming a leadership role in the locker room and his priorities in the latter half of his career.


Ryan Clark does not know when his professional football career will end, but he knows where.

After signing with the Washington Redskins Wednesday, the safety said he wants to finish his career where he launched it.

Although the New York Giants were the first team to acquire Clark – then an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana State University – the 12-year NFL veteran considers Washington the place he broke out. The Giants cut Clark, and the Redskins gave him another shot at an NFL career while he was working as a fundraiser for LSU. Clark started 24 games for the Redskins from 2004-05 before beginning an eight-year run with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I barely remember playing for the New York Giants, obviously, and so I’m excited about finishing out here,” Clark told “Redskins Nation” host Larry Michael shortly after signing his new deal.

“This is where it’s ending no matter what happens, no matter which way it goes. I better make the team. I’m going to work really hard to do that.”

At 34, Clark and Santana Moss are the oldest players on the roster.

Based on what he’s heard from Defensive Backs Coach Raheem Morris and Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett, Clark said Washington hopes to lean on his experience.

“I know they want me to come in and run the defense,” Clark said. “They want me to line guys up, help everybody get on the same page… different things like that which has kind of been a staple of the way I play football.”

In addition to adding a sharp schematic acumen to the field, the charismatic Clark could help fill a leadership void created by the departure of linebacker London Fletcher.

“He’s a guy that you can look at like a London Fletcher. He’s going to get the guys in order. He knows his job well.” Moss told CSN Washington. 
"He still can play the position really well,”

In a dispatch to ESPN – which employs Clark as an active player correspondent – the safety said he will bring a firm voice to Redskins Park.

“If things need to be said to players, I will say them to the players,” he said. “I won’t bring it to the media and say ‘Hey, I had this talk. I said this to so and so.’”

Clark said Robert Griffin III “has to be the leader of this team.” He said he and the quarterback have already had encouraging conversations about working together to steer the team in positive direction.

“I’m going to be here to support him and to support anything the coaching staff wants to do,” Clark said. “But the bottom line is it comes down to what you do producing on the field.”

DeAngelo Hall mentioned Clark’s name first when discussing locker room leadership in an interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The cornerback said Clark would help compensate for the loss of Fletcher and add a track record of success.

In eight seasons as a Steeler, Clark played in two Super Bowls, won one and earned a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl. He started at least 12 games in every season but 2007, when surgeons removed his spleen after complications from sickle cell trait exacerbated by the high-altitude environment in a road game at Denver.

Since his recovery, Clark has recorded at least 87 tackles and one interception in six consecutive seasons. He has topped the 100-tackle mark for the past three seasons.

Pittsburgh finished 8-8 the past two seasons and began to rebuild the defense. The Steelers extended four-time All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, signed free agent Mike Mitchell and put Clark in a familiar position.

In 2006, the Redskins signed Adam Archuleta and allowed Clark to join the Steelers. In 2014, Clark is back in burgundy and gold.

“Kudos to us,” Moss said. “We got Ryan back.”

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