Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark sat out Monday night’s game in Denver, and everything worked out well: The Steelers won, Clark got out of Denver without any adverse health effects, and Clark’s replacement in the starting lineup, Tyrone Carter, played well enough to earn the AFC defensive player of the week award.
Now Clark is crediting Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for making the call to keep him sidelined — a call that Clark himself says he wouldn’t have made.
“I would have played,” Clark said, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That just means he’s smarter than I am because, obviously, I’m standing here right now.”
Clark has the sickle cell trait, and playing in Denver’s mile-high elevation caused him serious health problems the last time he played there. But like most football players, Clark was focused more about his desire to compete than his physical safety. Now that he’s had time to think about it, Clark says he’s glad Tomlin was looking out for him.
“I appreciated the fact that he did take it out of my hands,” Clark said. “It kind of gave me a way to breathe either way. I didn’t feel like I was cleared to play and I just chose not to because coach Tomlin made the decision, and also if I do play and get sick I couldn’t live with that, either.”
Clark said he worked out on the field in Denver and feels fine, and he wouldn’t rule out playing in Denver in the future. But for now, he’s glad things worked out the way they did.