Ryan Clark Off To A Running Start On His Life’s Work

steelers ryan clark first take

By Matthew Marczi

Ryan Clark said nothing wrong yesterday when he spoke on ESPN’s First Take about marijuana use within the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room. But if it’s his intention to return to that locker room in 2014, it would have been more beneficial to him if that opening sentence had simply read “Ryan Clark said nothing”.

First and foremost, I have no problem with Clark speaking what he believes to be the truth. Furthermore, I’m of the belief that the treatment of marijuana usage in this country is misguided, and that the NFL’s policy toward its usage is even more backward and short-sighted.

I believe it’s only a matter of time before it will be decriminalized nationally, and while the league as an institution is free to enforce whatever policies it chooses, the reality is that those policies as it pertains to marijuana usage are not only ineffective, but counterproductive.

I say this as a person with no horse in the race, having never partaken in or had interest in partaking in recreational drugs of any kind.

With that being said, it was highly inadvisable for him to speak so openly about the issue—unless he had no stake in the consequences.

Publicly acknowledging that players within the Steelers locker room are regularly violating the league’s substance abuse policy just looks bad on everybody.

It looks bad on the players who don’t have the self-control to abstain from an activity that is in violation of company policy, even if that policy is approaching archaic relevance and may be obsolete in the near future.

It looks bad on the organization as a whole that either looks the other way as its employees violate said policy or simply doesn’t have enough control over its employees to curb this rampant violation, even if the front office and owners don’t agree with the policy.

But it looks especially bad on Clark, who from the outside right now looks like he’s throwing his teammates under the bus on his way out the door as he gears up for his post-football career of, evidently, throwing his teammates under the bus.

Clark has always been very outspoken, and I have absolutely no problem with him expressing his thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, regardless of whether or not I personally share his view on a given issue.

What I do take some issue with is his lack of consideration for the consequences of what he has to say. As somebody that supposedly has a great deal of respect for the Steelers organization, he put them in a bad light through his comments, and potentially opened them up to a league investigation and penalties.

Those comments roused enough attention to warrant comment by PR man Burt Lauten, reinforcing the organization’s support of the league’s policies regarding drug testing.

Every time he’s appeared on ESPN thus far this offseason, it has been as “Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark”. How much longer will that be the case? Perhaps he should just stay put, since it seems more likely at this point that he’ll be working for ESPN in 2014 than for the Steelers.

Maybe he’s already aware of that. Maybe that is what freed him to speak his mind so openly about the goings-on in the locker room. This isn’t like last offseason’s remarks. This time, there could be ramifications for the team.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Shannon Stephenson

    I find that people who want to make a name for themselves want to be in the media saying things that we will talk about which is what Clark is doing. He seems to have goals outside of the NFL and is trying to be in position when it happens and he has made that clear. It is getting to the point where I want him to just STFU!

  • steeltown

    Yep. I have no issue with the drug itself, the topic or discussion about legalization and medicinal use, whether you use it or not, recreationally or not, doesn’t matter to me.. what matters to me is it’s STILL a banned substance and he came out and said his own teammates are using

  • 20Stoney

    Ryan Clark is doing what is best for Ryan Clark. Whether you consider that right or wrong, his loyalty to the Steelers and his teammates appears to be out the window at this point.

  • Axe Skot

    Good article. Clark is gone and he knows it. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.

  • Rick M

    He started becoming a self-promoter several years ago, realizing that his football career was winding down and he needed to lay the groundwork for his next job. What better way to ensure a network TV commentary job than to be controversial. Personally I don’t think his last few years with the Steelers – i.e. repeatedly revealing private team information – reflect at all well on him. But why would he care? He’s pretty much guaranteed himself a broadcasting job.

  • Wayne Darby

    Will Clark become the next Warren Sapp? Saying things just to garner attention?

  • cencalsteeler

    Regardless what the stance is on marijuana, the fact remains that Ryan Clark broke an unwritten rule. There is a bond between teammates, a fraternity so to speak. If a teammate smoked in the presence of Ryan, that teammate is assuming that it’s something that is kept sacred within that circle. For Ryan to come out and publicly address this means nothing more than he broke that circle of trust.

  • chris ward

    I’m sure Clark’s comments did not fare well with the Rooney’s.

  • Bill Molinaro

    I guess freedom of speech also means freedom from thinking before you speak. That appears to be what Ryan Clark did. He makes his teammates and the Steelers organization look bad. As far as the editorial opinion expressed here that marijuana laws etc. are antiquated, I offer this: marijuana does not appear to be a drug that leads to use of more damaging substances and thus seems mostly harmless and I agree with decriminalization. That being said, do you really want to have a bunch of players on the sideline giggling and carrying on because they are high? The author said he has never partaken. Perhaps, while sober, he should join a group of users so he can see firsthand how silly and dysfunctional users are when high. It’s somewhat like being drunk but drunks are easy to spot. M users not so much. You think you have a lot of missed tackles now? Also smoking Jays is just as bad for your lungs as tobacco so maybe it is somewhat dangerous.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I don’t think this is that large of an issue. It’s the same on every team and every owner and coach knows it. For some reason, the Steelers fan base likes to gang up on guys as they know they are heading out the door, and that seems like the case here to me.

  • Callentown

    DUDE! Does the Dictator Goodell need any more fuel to pile on the Steelers.

    I don’t care what his motives are, this was a selfish move without thought to the teammates he’s leaving behind.

    Boo I say. Boo!!

  • Callentown

    Not to me. To me, this was selfish. The NFL is already holding on how many draft picks they will take from the Steelers from the Tomlin sideline incident.

    This only serves to put further microscope on this team and reason to penalize further.

  • Chris Ranieri

    the title of this article had me LOLing

  • Douglas Andrews

    Agree we would be naive to think that it doesn’t happen on every single NFL team. Ryan has been speaking his mind all last season and now that it’s almost evident that he’s out the door here comes the “oh he should just go away and shut up”. Ryan’s played for more than one NFL organization so who knows if his comments are directed at the Steelers because he didn’t specifically say that.

  • Johnny Loose

    I’m definitely a Pittsburgh homer. I always give Pittsburgh athletes the benefit of the doubt, which I’m not saying is right. So it says a lot that I can’t stand Ryan Clark. Started feeling this way a few years back after a comment he made on twitter. Speaking your mind takes real courage, a real man. Running your mouth about brothers and throwing them under the bus for your own personal gain is for cowards, and I believe that’s what Ryan Clark is.

  • AndyR34

    Get used to this! Also…in the future he will be referred to as “former” Pittsburgh Steeler safety…so get used to that.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The thing is that Clark’s comments can draw the attention of the league to investigate the Steelers in particular. I’m sure the Dolphins are already going to be under heavier scrutiny after revealing messages in the Martin-Incognito text exchanges. There is talk of Antonio Cromartie coming under league scrutiny for his comments regarding marijuana usage as well. Considering these things, this is not just about kicking a guy in the rear on his way out the door. He said some irresponsible things that could have consequences for his former teammates that he likely won’t have to face himself, and that is why I had a problem with what he said.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    How pot smoking gets investigated falls under the auspice of the collective bargaining agreement and he didn’t say anything that will bring extra scrutiny. The league already knows a lot of guys smoke pot once they get through their test in the Spring. If they want to police pot or the Steelers players based on these comments, they would have to bargain with the union to increase testing.

    Clark has said some other things that were out of turn regarding the locker room, but in my opinion, this is a nothing comment.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s fine, but I don’t share your belief that implicating your teammates in illegal activity is a “nothing” comment.

  • patrick Mayfield

    Disagree

    His comments have little to gain him in my opinion. As someone looking for a job in the league or behind a microphone, there’s no advantage to talking about the pervasiveness of drugs. Is this something you want to talk about in an interview?

  • sean mcmartin

    he probably was told he won’t be back . freedom of speech is fine with me. But why bash a team that paid you all of last year even though you were past your prime? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you and burning bridges..wow

  • walter mason

    players should deny it

  • unfurious

    That’s beautiful. The official company line should be, “Not me, but I saw Ryan do it.”

  • Steve

    Clark sure won’t have a warm welcome over some teamates place. Players will write him off their frends list.

  • Steve

    So is Alcohol but it is not illegal to get drunk. So its ok to have a drink at halftime and go back out and play with a few on your breath. How are these easy to spot besides the smell?

  • Steve

    Clark was one of the quietest guys on the team up until 2013. Use to let his playing talk for him and since he can’t tackle anymore the mouth playing for him. Ward was a true player that didn’t loose his players trust to get his word out and message across. Clark has lost a lot of respect as a player and friend that cannot be trusted.

  • Bill Molinaro

    I’m not for drinking during a game either but the smell does make it very easy to spot. Also, one or two drinks usually doesn’t affect one like pot does (Alcohol can affect ones performance.) Potheads get totally dysfunctional. I ask again: do you want to see football players giggling like a gaggle of teen aged girls on the sideline?

  • Apexsimba

    You serious? What could possibly make you think players are going to smoke before or during a game?

  • Steve

    Maybe they had a injury or maybe they need to relax (HA).

  • ND_Steel

    First, this shows why we missed the real veteran leadership these past couple years…Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, Ward. Time for pretenders like Clark and Woodley to step aside so men like Heyward can take the reins. Not sure who else, Worilds, Thomas maybe. Second, don’t see how he comes back after this. I think he’s worn out his welcome. Third, is anyone overly impressed with this commentating? He’s outspoken, and while he can be well spoken, he’s not terribly likable in what he’s saying. Sapp, Sanders, Skank…outspoken, but likable. They jest, they have fun. Clark just seems to want to be controversial and lacks substance so his only recourse is to rat out his brothers.