By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Players usually don’t find out about weekly fines for flagrant hits until Thursday, four days after the game, but Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark already knows he’s getting hit with a $40,000 penalty for a shot on Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson this past Sunday.
Clark was penalized because his hit on Dickson was “on a defenseless receiver,” but the fine was so high because it’s his second offense. Clark was pissed. Clark was fined $15,000 last week.
“Coach Tomlin told me today (about the fine),” Clark said, “and I think it’s the most ridiculous … you know, I took the last one for good because I hit the guy out of bounds (Pats Rob Gronkowski). I didn’t know he was out of bounds, but I could see why they would call something like that.
“But if you watch the film in slow mo, by the time the play is over my back is almost turned to him (because) I was trying to make sure my head was out of the way. I leveled my shoulder and tried to do everything possibly right. So, to be fined $40,000, I just don’t understand it.”
Clark was informed that he likely has been identified as a repeat offender, and then he went off.
“It doesn’t matter what it comes under (category),” Clark said. “I actually expected to get a call back to tell me that it wasn’t wrong, because it wasn’t. I did everything that I was asked to do. Goodell and all those other guys sit in their offices in their suits and make these decisions on what was a split-second reaction by the players. And this time, it’s wrong.
“There’s nothing they can say or tell me to make me feel like it’s right. There’s no way they can call me or write me a letter and call me into their office to say anything. Whether it’s Ray Anderson … but I think this is a situation where De Smith needs to step in. The hit wasn’t malicious at all. I know how to knock somebody out if I wanted to knock them out. You know what I mean?
“If I wanted to put him to sleep, I would have put him to sleep,” Clark added. “But I didn’t want to. I was just trying to make a play on the ball, and that was the only way that I was able to make a play on the ball. If you watch the film, I tucked my head to the left and almost turned my back completely to him by the time the hit was finished. So, it’s just wrong.
“Am I supposed to let him catch it and wait for him to hug him? Should I throw a pillow at him or blow a whistle to let him know I was going to tackle him? No, that’s not football. But it wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t a spear or forearm to the head. It wasn’t any of those things, but to be fined $40,000 for that … it’s either targeting me as a player or targeting this team like (I’ve said) before.
“For me, I’ve tried to take the high road on things,” Clark added. “I’ve been asked a lot of questions about hits this year, and I always say that if it’s not involving me I’m out of it. I didn’t want us to be the team that’s constantly complaining about hits, but this is ridiculous. (But) they didn’t give me an explanation. Coach Tomlin got an e-mail that told him I would be fined.”
Clark said that he would appeal the fine, but he believed it was a moot point.
“You’re appealing to the same people who set the fine in the first place, so somebody else needs to step in because I’m done with it,” Clark said. “Not that I respected Roger before this, from the way that he’s running the game, but this is really ridiculous. This was a football play.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger obviously agreed.
“It’s unfortunate,” Roethlisberger said. “You never want to see one of your guys get hit like that, especially for that much money. So, it’s unfortunate. I went back and watched (the play), and if you slow it down and watch it … it’s about as picture-perfect a tackle as you could make.
“His head was down, right across the chest. The back of his helmet might have grazed the bottom of the receiver’s facemask, but that’s it. So, someone needs to stand up and do something. That’s De Smith. He’s our player guy (Executive Director of NFLPA). (So), stand up and do something for our players.”
When asked if his receivers get the same calls, Roethlisberger was evasive.
“Who hit Hines? I don’t know,” Roethlisberger said. “Was there a fine for anyone else? You have to be careful how much you comment on that stuff.”
Roethlisberger referred to the hit by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on Hines Ward that knocked the veteran wideout from the game. Lewis was not penalized for the obvious helmet-to-helmet hit, but he was fined $20,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver. Lewis’ fine apparently was his first offense.