Clark - Part 1 – July 10
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Safety Ryan ClarkStephen Mihalov, Orlando, Florida: How difficult was it for you to watch the playoff game at Denver knowing the competitor in you wanted to be in there so bad? Clark: It was hard, especially with the way the game went. Any time you work all season to reach a goal, which is to get to the playoffs, of course you want to be a part of the game, a part of what the team is doing. I had to accept that it was bigger than the game. It was hard to watch our guys go out there and compete so hard and fall short, especially in the defensive backfield with the way the game ended.
Jen Wright, Buffalo, New York: Were you frustrated when you saw the 2012 schedule and the Broncos were the first game, or is it better to just get that one over with and your flow won't be disrupted in the middle of the season?
Clark: It is better for me to get it out of the way, get all of the questions out of the way and let the game be played and hopefully I can play 18 straight games after that, all the way to the Super Bowl. It's better than Week 10 and us having a nice groove going as a team and secondary and then have to sit out.
Jason Haslett, Mechanicsville, Virginia: Since the league is officiating big hits out of the game, does it take the intimidation factor away from the defense? Also, being one of the biggest hitters in the NFL, how has it affected the way you play?
Clark: I think it affects the way you play because you have to lower your strike zone and not get penalties. The fines are not what kills you, the penalties are. Other than that you still play with the same type of aggression. Receivers understand that. I think it has taken a measure of intimidation out of the game because you know some of those hits aren't going to be the same.
Dan Myers, Rochester, New York: The defense lost two leaders in James Farrior and Aaron Smith. Who do you think will pick up the slack there as a leader or do several players need to step up?
Clark: I think several players need to step up. I think guys have been doing that through the natural progression of their careers. Brett Keisel did that last year, Ike Taylor did that in the secondary. I think it's going to be a big year for Lawrence Timmons and guys like LaMarr Woodley. We have veteran guys who have been here a long time and leadership comes with that. Getting the younger guys to step up is the key too.
Maria Clark, New York, New York: It's part of the game, but is it tough to see teammates who are friends as well, retire, get cut or leave via free agency?
Clark: It's extremely hard. James was a tough one for me, one of my first friends in Pittsburgh. He was the first guy to help me out. It's hard, but it is part of the game. You pray you can continue these relationships outside of football, but you will miss these people, miss the chemistry and camaraderie that you had. That changes your team. There were things each guy brought to the team off the field that we have to replace. You can replace players. The Steelers have been competitive for years because they know how to get good football players. The hardest thing is to keep good people.
John Stevenson: You lost William Gay in the secondary. Are you looking forward to watching the competition to fill his role between Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown?
Clark: I am, but I am looking forward more to the outcome than the competition. The competition is ongoing. They were competing last year to put themselves in position to compete for this position this year. I am looking forward to seeing which guy comes out of it and does the competition make each guy better. The journey is cool, but I am more interested in the destination.