The NFL's efforts to protect players, especially from head injuries, have rammed a wedge between offensive and defensive players.
Likely first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez had some harsh criticisms for defenders who dive at knees, after Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger's low hit on Dustin Keller resulted in a season-ending injury for the Miami Dolphins tight end. Swearinger said he went low to avoid receiving a fine for a high hit.
"I'm so disgusted with the NFL right now about those situations," Clark said Tuesday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "If an offensive player makes enough of a stink, they'll change it. I know Tony Gonzalez was extremely upset about the hit on Dustin Keller. I understand that. I believe, and some of you may have the film, I said if you start penalizing guys and fining guys for hits up top ... some of these hits up top are not illegal.
"I remember a hit I had on Victor Cruz last year, which was clearly legal, but it gave up seven points. I hurt my team by doing something I deemed legal and something the NFL also deemed legal by not fining me.
"So you go to the other extreme. The guys know there is no way possible (to) get fined if (they) go low. It will be one or the other. Guys will hit up high and maybe risk getting a concussion or hurting a shoulder. When you get hit low, the season is going to be over. If they decide to change this rule, they might as well put flags on because you'll give a guy who is 200 pounds, like myself, a 2-foot area to stop a guy who is 240 or 250 running at full speed. They might as well just take us off the field and see how many points you can score on offense in 60 minutes."
The overdone flag hyperbole aside, Clark's point that the rules favor the offense remains a valid outcry for defenders as they balance doing their jobs versus hurting an opponent.