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.