Linebacker James Harrison wasn't at the Steelers practice facility on Wednesday because of his one-game NFL suspension, but he definitely was at the forefront of his teammates thoughts.
"I am frustrated for James," said safety Ryan Clark. "I feel bad for James. I couldn't imagine having to deal with what he has had to deal with the past two years. I know he has worked extremely hard to stay within the guidelines. This is his first offense this year. That part frustrates me. You hate to see a teammate, a friend, be ostracized or ridiculed when he has been working to do better."
Clark has been fined twice by the NFL this season, including once for $40,000, and what bothers him is there is no set guideline as to what classifies a player to be worthy of a suspension.
"There is no set rules, no clarification on what will get you suspended or fined a certain amount," said Clark. "It's really all left up to judgment. We just have to continue to try to play within the rules, try to do the right thing. It's a battle we can't win. You can't fight it through the media. You can't fight it doing anything. The NFL is going to make the decision of who plays and who doesn't. For us we have to find a way to play within the rules and still be able to maintain a physical presence out there.
"It's tough. It's really tough because nothing is in black and white. It's hard to truly understand what to do, how to do it correctly. On the other side of that when it is perceived that you have done it incorrectly what are the consequences and repercussions of that? For us right now, you know that going in and you have to try and do your best to play within the guidelines that you do know, the guidelines that are set for you. They're having a tough time officiating it and judging it right now. At the same time we are having a hard time understanding what they want."
Clark said he doesn't know if things are going to get worse as far as fines and suspensions, but just wants to make sure they are able to play their style of football within the guidelines.
"I can't tell you what is going to happen in the future," said Clark. "We just want to play now. We want to try to figure out a way to be as physical as possible and as legal as possible. Right now that is the challenge placed before us.
"On the other (side) of that when things don't go our way we need to shut up because obviously being who we are isn't working. Being outspoken about things and expressing our frustration in different manners than other people that's not working for us. We're not going to call the commissioner; we're not going to set up meetings. That's just not the players that we are. But I think as a team we just need to stop talking about it. Just do our best to go out here and play football because that's what our jobs are and leave the rest of the politicking to other people."