Ryan Clark stands just 5-foot-11 and, after a big meal, weighs 200 pounds. That hasn’t stopped the strong safety from packing a big punch for the Washington Redskins.
“Ryan thinks he’s a linebacker,” said Marcus Washington, a linebacker himself.
Added safeties coach Steve Jackson: “Ryan goes out with the intention of ‘it’s either going to be you or it’s going to be me. One of us is going to be the fly. One of us is going to be the windshield.’ That’s the way he approaches every tackle, every bit of contact.”
Brian Westbrook discovered that Sunday when Clark put the Pro Bowl running back on his behind after a 1-yard gain to end the Philadelphia Eagles’ first offensive series. This a week after Clark, cut by the New York Giants early in 2004, made 11 tackles against his former team.
“When I first got here and heard that Ryan was one of our toughest defenders when it comes to the secondary, I kind of looked at him, and I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ ” said receiver Santana Moss, who’s generously listed at 5-10, 190. “Then in our [Aug. 6] scrimmage against the Ravens, I saw him fly around and throw his body. … It was very impressive, seeing his size. Better him than me.”
That’s just fine with Clark. He ranks fifth on the Redskins with 25 tackles despite missing the first two games of the season because of a sprained knee and the Broncos game because of a bruised spleen.
“I’ve never been scared to hit,” Clark said. “I go up and try to hit. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. Lately, I’ve been winning more than losing. I had a good friend tell me, ‘You’re either going to be the hammer or the nail.’ I might be a small hammer, not a sledgehammer.”
Clark had 48 tackles in the first five games in which he played extensively last season but just 23 in the final seven weeks as he shed pounds and wore down. He hopes a rigorous offseason will help him hold his weight in the second half of this season.
Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington gave his teammates a fiery talk Saturday night, knowing the defense played poorly in the previous week’s 36-0 loss to the Giants and that he was going to start and play extensively for the first time in more than a year.
“LaVar had watched his alma mater [Penn State] play, and he wanted us to bring the same intensity when we play,” Washington said. “In college, you’re playing because you love it … that closeness, that brotherhood, that pride. I think we displayed that [against the Eagles].”
Arrington noted that the transient nature of the salary cap era combined with the complications of money makes team chemistry more elusive in the NFL. He said a major reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense is top-ranked is they still have eight of the starters and the coordinator from their 2002 Super Bowl champions.
Arrington tied defensive end Phillip Daniels for the team lead with six tackles against the Eagles.
“You can’t try to run away from [me] when you have somebody on the other side like LaVar who can make big plays and who’s just a presence out there,” Washington said. “That gives me a chance to get a little more action my way so I don’t get so bored.”
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