Ryan Clark’s latest rant confirms the role of coaching in illegal hits

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On Sunday night, the game officials missed a helmet-to-helmet hit applied by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to Steelers receiver Hines Ward.

The league office didn’t.

Later in the game, the officials properly penalized Steelers safety Ryan Clark for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Ed Dickson.  Since Clark is a repeat offender, he’s been hit with a fine in the amount of $40,000.

Clark’s not happy about it.  He complained to reporters on Wednesday; the audio has been posted by 96.1 KISS.  While his candid remarks create multiple opportunities for commentary, the most telling comments came when Clark was discussing the team’s post-game film review session.

“This is something we watched in slow-mo as a team — as a team — to say, ‘If you’re gonna try to dislodge the ball from somebody,” Clark said.  “This is the way you should do it.  This is the legal way you should do it.'”

A reporter then asked whether that happened during training camp.

“No, this was Monday,” Clark said.

“Who said that, Mike [Tomlin]?” a reporter asked.

“Yes, this is what we talked about in our meeting,” Clark said.  “Like if you’re gonna go to make a play, this is how you should make it.”

The four-minute segment has plenty of other interesting statements.  For example, Clark says on multiple occasions that, at a price tag of $40,000, he may as well just “put people to sleep.”  But nothing was more compelling than Clark’s indirect acknowledgement that players who object  to the implementation of the rules regarding helmet-to-helmet hits are possibly echoing things that they hear behind closed doors, from the very men who are responsible for teaching them the proper techniques.

Though the hit by Clark on Dickson seemed to be inadvertent, he nevertheless made contact with his helmet to the helmet of Dickson at a time when Dickson was, under the rules, defenseless.  Clark’s admission that coaches are playing back video of such hits and describing them as proper technique should be alarming to the league office.

This dynamic underscores the point made last week regarding the meeting between the Commissioner and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  It’s the coaches, not the league office, who ultimately are responsible for instructing players on the line between proper and improper hits.  And it’s the coaches, not the players, who apparently are responsible for the confusion and frustration that has been expressed by players and, ultimately, by fans.

73 responses to “Ryan Clark’s latest rant confirms the role of coaching in illegal hits

  1. Regulating and fining for these bang bang split second plays where 200lb men are flying around with armor on is like trying to regulate the flight pattern of mosquitos, except you can’t extort money from mosquitos when they don’t do exactly what there’s no way you can control them doing in the first place.

    Start by mandating that the new concussion retardant helmet technology be worn across the league, no exceptions. Go from there. This is backwards.

  2. So let’s start having the coaches share in the fines of each of their players.

    I bet there will be a league wide clinic on legal and illegal hits after the first time.

  3. This coward should have been thrown out of the league for his gutless cheapshot on Wes Welker a couple years ago. This is not suprising.

  4. may as well throw a flag on every play since there is helmet to helmet contact taking place. seriously. Just throw the flag. Flip a coin to see who gets the penalty, offense or defense. Whatever was called during the coin flip at the beginning of the game holds throughout.

  5. Dirtiest db in the nfl…..this guy has made a tackle with his shoulder in 5 years. He’s still looking for jordy nelson as well.

  6. It was in the Pacman story and here as well. Do people really think that it is the coach’s job to teach anything other than their own scheme at this level? If you need someone to teach you, go to the UFL.

    The players are responsible for learning everything on their own, the coach’s job is to put them into position to make plays and win games. I don’t understand the emphasis I keep seeing here on coaches teaching grown men what to do and how to do it.

    That being said, Goodell’s campaign against defense will ruin the NFL if he is successful.

  7. Offensive players need to be more responsible while playing as well. They can’t just drop their heads and not expect to get a helmet to helmet hit.

  8. Umm, the real problem is just the officiating. Clark’s contact looked incidental, yet he drew a penalty. Lewis’s looked intentional, yet nothing happened.

    Who knows what the rules are? The officials certainly don’t.

  9. I have the perfect remedy for the Ray Lewis’, Ryan Clark’s & James Harrison’s. Have them play the next game following a fine without a helmet. I’ll bet they learn to lead with their shoulder pads then.

  10. Not surprising, if you watch all the steeler games as I do. Every defensive player on the team tackles with there head first. Its the way they are coached and it shows on the field. The true class act of the NFL. Americas team is a bunch of the dirtiest coached players, if no one else can see this i would have to call you blind homers

  11. If it is the coaches responsible for the confusion, why is the Clark hit flagged, and but the Lewis hit isn’t?

    Seems to be some confusion amongst the officials as well.

  12. How about we just let everybody in the NFL wear helmets but force Ryan Clark to play without one. Then we’ll see how many dirty hits he’d make and see how tough he is.

  13. What else can you say? The league office is out of control from the top on down. Every game I watched had multiple terrible calls. The fines are insane. Someone needs to put a stop to this crap

  14. I just don’t understand why these players have such an issue with these fines concerning these illegal hits. It’s to protect them from their own selves. If they stopped fining Ryan for his illegal hits, he would be in a wheel chair at this point. That’s for all players in this league. As kids our coaches taught the fundamentals of tackling by keeping your head up, move to the side and use your shoulder. Why is this such a tough concept at the pro level. It doesn’t matter if it’s a split second, if you practice technique you will perform that on the field.

  15. I love me some Steeler discontent BUT let’s be rational here. Tomlin is a smart SMART guy. We’re supposed to believe he told Ryan Clark to leave his feet, lunge, and hit helmet to helmet in order to cause a fumble?

    I think Ryan’s a little confused

  16. @202folife who says:

    I have the perfect remedy for the Ray Lewis’, Ryan Clark’s & James Harrison’s. Have them play the next game following a fine without a helmet. I’ll bet they learn to lead with their shoulder pads then
    So you’re saying that it’s possible to hit someone with your shoulders without including any part of your head. You’re saying that a human being’s head can operate independently from his neck and shoulders.

    You know Plastic Man really would be a hell of a player.

  17. hey 202folife. maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but James Harrison has not been fined once this season. you have to take his name out of the illegal hits discussions now. maybe add ray Lewis since he didn’t apologize for his hit on hines ward and how he said he would do it again and not change the way he plays.

  18. Clark is referring to trying to separate the ball from the man. Clark dislodged the ball with his SHOULDER PAD. Unfortunately the good lord made the mistake of placing his head somewhere north of his shoulder.

    Clark targeted the ball with his shoulder because if he tried to put his hat on the ball, you’d be here crying about him using the crown of his helmet as a weapon.

  19. Next year, let’s change the game again by eliminating the helmets and pads all together. Then let them play. Oh, that’s called rugby.

  20. It’s just football players playing football. The league office can go F themselves. And so can the critics and their delicate sensibilities. Go watch figure skating if you can’t handle having violence in your football.

  21. You cant launch yourself into his facemask, its been called everytime. Play smarted, pay roger less. Repeat offender.

  22. funny thing is, when most announcers are calling a game and a player forces a fumble by hitting it with his helmet, they all say it’s the right way to do it, to “put a helmet on the ball”….i can’t count the number of times i’ve heard that expression.

  23. What are the steps involved in ousting Goodell from his commish position? This clown has got to go, he’s ruining the sport. I’m sorry, but as a lifelong fan of the NFL, that’s why I pay the big dollars to go see a game- the hits. Everybody that plays in the league knows the risks involved in playing and they’re still out there doing it, so let them play.

  24. formyministy says:
    “funny thing is, when most announcers are calling a game and a player forces a fumble by hitting it with his helmet, they all say it’s the right way to do it, to ‘put a helmet on the ball’. . . .”

    Putting a helmet on the ball is NOT the same as putting a helmet into a facemask (unless the ball is in that facemask, something I’ve never seen before).

  25. Anyone who has ever made a tackle knows how difficult it is to make a tackle without your helmet getting in the way and sometimes hitting an opponents helmet. Would you rather we allow the catch or should we stick a leg out and trip? It is like catching a pass without your hands. Doesn’t make sense does it?

  26. lokalfuz says:
    “What are the steps involved in ousting Goodell from his commish position?”

    A vote of 22 out of 32 owners is how the NFL picks a new commissioner. If 22 of the 32 owners pick a new commissioner, then the current commissioner is out of the job as commissioner.

  27. What happened the ‘Jacked up segment’? It could now be the ‘Waffled on a tackle to avoid a fine’ segment! NFL rules are crap!

  28. “I hope Clark (my least favorite steeler) decapitates someone this week.”

    This is a totally classless comment. That is someone’s kid out there on the field. A human being, not some tackling dummy. You, are not a football fan.

    As far as helmet to helmet hits, I know the way to stop that. Take away all plastic helmets and go back to leather. Let’s see how many people want to lead with their head then. Bring back the old wrap your arms around em and put em on the turf.

  29. I commend you and condemn you at the same time.

    First, if you push this issue hard enough, PFT might just make a difference in the long run regaring injuries in the game (and save lives or at least years of quality life for the players). And apparently you are hell bent on doing so, but that’s a good thing.

    Now the other side, you reference an older article where you make this claim

    “Schwartz either can’t or won’t communicate the league office’s point of view with his players.”

    I fail to see where you have proof of that.

    Schwartz said he understands the leagues view point. The way he says it, I take it to mean that he might not agree with what the league is saying. For instance, I take it he doesn’t agree with the League that Suh’s hit on Cutler last year should be called illegal.

    Your interpretation makes Schwartz a liar and sates that he is telling his player the wrong thing or not telling the right thing on purpose. As if getting his players to do the wrong thing will give him W’s and success at their expense. If you’re going to make that argument I believe that you need to prove it. And you haven’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the crusade against the wrong things in this sport, but as a journalist I believe you have to hold yourself to a higher standard when making claims about what others are doing. Don’t speculate. Prove it.

  30. Why is anyone surprised that Ryan Clark got fined he does this sort if thing every week. He is a dirty player and always has been.

  31. freedomispopular says:
    Nov 9, 2011 3:37 PM
    This whole “defenseless receiver” crap is still the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    i have to agree with you there..in a lot of cases when a receiver has the ball they put themselves in that position.there are a lot of receivers and running backs that put there head down when someone goes to tackle them..so there are going to be times when a tacklers helmet goes head to head..so honestly no one can say it was intent to hurt someone.but when you see a linebacker like lewis put his head down as he did when a receiver has his back to him then it is obvious he did it to hurt someone..

    as Harrison said maybe the defensive players need to have someone run with them and pick the player up and lay a pillow under them so they dont get hurt

  32. Not a Steelers fan but this is why i Luv mike tomlin… Keep playin football the right way dont go low on a WR makin a play you could get your neck broken like the kid from louisville who went low & took a knee to the helmet i wonder why no one ever mentions that. Its helmet to helmet on every play i guess ronnie lott would not be welcome in todays NFL..How sad

  33. Not a Steelers fan at all, but Clark has a good point. He wasn’t trying to be “dirty” but was still fined. The league HAS to come up with some consistent rules on this for the sake of the game.

  34. What about the coaches that are now teaching WRs to lower their helmets to draw the penalty?

    You can’t tell me it’s not true. If you are a WRs coach and you can get your team 15 yards and a first down. Then you tell anyone going over the middle to try and catch the ball, but get your head down to draw the foul.

    I was thinking about this how about letting DBs get more physical with Wrs farther from the line.

  35. I’m starting to think Ryan Clark is just too stupid to adjust. He’s Meriweather-like to me.

  36. Actually, Ryan… you can dislodge the ball with your FIST. Charles Woodson and Charles Tillman are two defensive backs that do this on the regular.

    Try looking up, and seeing what you’re actually trying to hit or tackle… and maybe you could avoid getting fined or flagged.

    You can try and play the “Steeler” card, but really… it’s just you Ryan. You don’t know how to tackle so you try and use your helmet. Polamolu has no problem tackling without using his helmet. Woodley too. You simply bought into the hype when your team carried you to a Super Bowl, and then you tried to keep your name in the media by speaking out about nonsense. You go on ESPN and debate Skip Bayless because it keeps your name out there. You’re not good, and you take cheap-shots often.

  37. I would just love to go on a rant about the squealers being the dirtiest team in the nfl(which they are) – but come on – did tomlin teach this guy to play dirty – or does he play that way because he is marginal at best as a player and needs to do whatever he can to stay in the nfl.
    i do not think tomlin and pitt organization are coaching their players to play dirty – no coach is going to impact what happens in that split second, bang-bang play – it can happen to ANY player once or twice – the “dirty” tag comes when a player does it multiple times – my 2 cents

  38. No player for any organization should be on the radio spouting off about what’s discussed in team meetings. Ryan needs to zip it before Goodell has a hissy fit and finds some new way to torment defenders.

  39. No one (other than maybe Suggs) hates the Steelers more than I do. But the issue here is tackling receivers in the NFL. I’m only 27, but even I can remember the days when our coaches on the practice field and even the announcers of NFL games would talk about how you needed to make receivers pay for going accross the middle. Now it’s the DB’s who are paying for receivers going accross the middle, literally!

    And who are you to say that Clark is the dirtiest player in the NFL? The players just voted on the matter and Ryan didn’t even make the top 10. Actually, a bunch of OL made the list. Where are all their fines? (Not really calling for more fines)

    Not liking where these rules are going, but if you really think Goodell is focused more on safety than he is on high-scoring games, think again. Playing defense is almost impossible in the NFL now. As a Niner fan, I’m scared that our “boring” gameplay will soon cause Roger to focus his attention on penalizing too many run plays or too many offensive lineman on the feild.

  40. Please stop crying about how Goodell is ruining your precious football. As more and more is learned about long-term damage from concussions, the NFL has a LEGAL & MORAL obligation to try and make a violent game safer for the players…even if some of the players, coaches, and fans don’t like it.

  41. The NFL should publicly publish their logic and method for fining repeat offenders. It should progressively work up to suspenions for repeated offenses. Like it or not, there’s a reason the same names keep apearing in relation to this issue. Why is Clark the poster boy for this issue and not say Polamalu, Reed or Dawkins? Why was it Harrison last year and not Suggs or Ware? Because we had multiple examples of irrefutable video evidence that these guys could give a tiny rat’s ace about what everyone else thinks or the safety of the other human being’s life they’re potentially about to ruin.

  42. @2ndaryinsanity …

    Pretty much everything we know today about the long-term damage from head trauma, we knew five years ago … and the NFL was celebrating the hardest hits in video montages. Brutality was used to sell the game. Goodell couldn’t have cared less about the league’s LEGAL & MORAL obligation to make a violent game safer … until Congress threatened to hold hearings on the issue. Suddenly it became a priority … not because of moral or ethical concerns, but because the NFL does not want government oversight.

    Beyond that, Goodell is a corporate guy who likes money. And high-flying offenses with high-scoring games attract casual viewers who don’t understand defensive strategies–the kind of people who thought Bama and LSU played to a 9-6 final because they don’t have any offensive weapons, even though both teams usually score 30-50 points. These casual viewers want to see touchdowns … and Goodell wants to accommodate them. More touchdowns = more revenue.

    This is business. It has nothing to do with morality or concern for player safety.

  43. Screw you GOD-ell. I cant wait until this guy is replaced. He is the worse commissioner the NFL has ever had. He won’t admit it but he hates the steelers. I watch the replay and there wasnt anything ryan clark could do but hit him(must i say at full speed) or let him catch the ball. Don’t get me wrong.

    I understand the safety for NFL players and do agree with some of the rules and calls that are made especially when they look intentional as a Free Safety going full speed as there is nothing he could ever done. Some of you fans would never know that if you never played the game. This guy is ruining the NFL.

  44. ticalcaldwell says:
    Nov 9, 2011 2:24 PM
    It is easy for us to call hits illegal after watching 10 vantage points in slow mo…At the speed of 500mph….it is hit or miss…
    OK but what’s your point as it relates to the article? Clark is saying that Tomlin said it was a good hit after watching the tape in slo-mo.

    “the most telling comments came when Clark was discussing the team’s post-game film review session.

    “This is something we watched in slow-mo as a team — as a team — to say, ‘If you’re gonna try to dislodge the ball from somebody,” Clark said. “This is the way you should do it. This is the legal way you should do it.’” A reporter then asked whether that happened during training camp.

    “No, this was Monday,” Clark said.

    “Who said that, Mike [Tomlin]?” a reporter asked.

    “Yes, this is what we talked about in our meeting,” Clark said. “Like if you’re gonna go to make a play, this is how you should make it.””

  45. Uh why should it be alarming to the league office that coaches are teaching defensive players how to play football? What should be alarming to the league office is how ridiculous the rules are. What should be alarming to the league office is they are fining so many players and the rules are to blame. God forbid defensive players try to stop offensive players from catching a pass or getting in the end zone. Sheesh.

  46. Funny how when a Steeler player gets fined/penalized so many are all in favor. Last year when the Steelers were being singled out for special treatment everyone loved it.

    This year the fines and penalties are really hitting a lot of teams and cannot help but notice everyone has the outrage the Steeler fans had last year. The comments on other teams threads feel quite familiar.

    So I must again caution all Steeler-hating fine-lovers – your team will eventually get the same crap because they play football 2. Don’t be so happy about it – because your team will get shafted as well. It’s just a matter of when.

  47. What I would like to know is: if the league is going to impose fines on defensive players for helmet to helmet hits, launching, spearing, etc., then why aren’t offensive players flagged for lowering their helmets and using it as a battering ram against defensive players? I see running backs do this all the time. I saw Ryan Mathews do it to a cornerback a few weeks back and the defensive player had to be taken off of the field do to the viscious helmet to helmet hit. Ryan Mathews wasn’t fined, nor have I seen any offensive player fined for doing that. The case can be made that both players are not considered “defenseless,” but if the outcome is the same due to a violent h2h hit then what is being done about protecting ALL players on both sides of the ball? I mean that’s why the rule was created, correct? I would love to hear Goodell explain that to us fans in convincing fashion.

  48. Steeler fan, I know you think everything revolves around your team, but Goodell doesn’t have anything against your team. He simply doesn’t like Defense, and you have had a good defense for a while.
    Roger wants NBA type scores in the NFL. He wants to change the strategic chess match between the offense and the defense into a checkers game. I personally don’t like it, but I think Goodell is more worried about the casual fan who can understand checkers a bit better. Those of us who are diehard about the game and may not like his changes, we don’t matter to him. He’s banking on us watching anyway, and he is probably right. He seems to be successful at growing viewership but at the expense of us who liked the game the way it was. Upsetting, but what are we gonna do?
    And he is NOT going to ruin the NFL. The NFL is so strong that even Goodell cannot completely ruin it.

  49. We just gotta start taking knees out & putting receivers to sleep…plain & simple. Next time take that off pass int torrey smiths knees out!

  50. maybe i’m leaving some players out but it seems to me that the only players that are complaining about being fined are from the steelers and the ravens. well suh too but am i wrong in saying that?

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