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Tomlin rallied around Clark, saying in a statement he felt the fine was “excessive” and “Ryan has my full support if he chooses to appeal this in any way.”

Clark hasn’t decided whether to ask the league to take a second look, mostly because of the way the process is handled.

The players can appeal to former NFL coaches Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, who are paid by the league and the NFL Players Association to handle such cases. Their appeal must be heard by the second Tuesday following notification of the discipline. Goodell can become involved in the process at any time.

The Steelers aren’t into conspiracy theories, but they’re also the only team in the league that voted against the CBA. Clark, who serves as the team’s union player representative, believes NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith should get involved. His teammates don’t think it’s a bad idea.

“That’s his job. I think he should do something because right now it seems like they can do whatever they want to,” linebacker James Harrison said.

The NFLPA did not immediately return a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Regardless, Clark argues if the hit against Dickson was against the rules, he’s not sure what’s legal anymore.

“Am I supposed to let him catch it and then wait for him and hug him?” Clark said. “Should I throw a pillow at him? Should I blow a whistle? `Hey look, I’m about to tackle you.’ No, that’s not football.”

Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis agrees. The All-Pro was also fined for making helmet-to-helmet contact with Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward, who immediately left the game with concussion-like symptoms.

“You can’t stop playing defense the way defense has always been created to play,” Lewis said. “When the receiver has the ball, your job is to disengage him from the ball. You never want to hurt nobody. I’ve been in this business too long. I just think once you start getting into these fines I don’t know how they come up with the numbers most of the time.”

Neither does Clark, who threatened to go out and blatantly earn the fine next time.

“So it’s going to turn into if you’re going to fine me $40,000, I might as well put him to sleep for real or I might as well blow his knee out,” Clark said.


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York and AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.