Steelers' Clark knows Tomlin just protecting him by sitting him

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark sat down in Mike Tomlin's office and did something a little out of character for the normally verbose Steelers safety. He listened.

And when Tomlin told Clark he couldn't play in Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Denver because of a sickle-cell trait that becomes aggravated when playing at higher elevations, Clark just shrugged his shoulders and nodded.

"I said, 'OK, coach,' " Clark said Wednesday. "It wasn't any fight ... does he seem like a man who changes his mind anyway? I knew there wasn't going to be any changing in that."

And for that, Clark is grateful. If given the choice, Clark would give it a shot even when faced with potentially dire consequences.

"Y'all have seen me play, I run into people all the time, so clearly I'm not that bright," Clark jokingly told reporters with a laugh.

Clark nearly died the last time he played in Denver, when the then-undiagnosed condition flared up. Clark's gall bladder and spleen were removed, and he lost 30 pounds. Doctors cleared Clark to play this weekend but didn't make any guarantees. That's all Tomlin needed to hear.

"They couldn't tell me 100 percent that 'Nothing is going to happen to you, you're going to play and you're going to be fine,' and I think that 1 percent chance was enough for Coach Tomlin to take it out of my hands," Clark said.

Tomlin told Clark that if the coach's son, Dino, was in the player's situation, he wouldn't let him play.

"I think either way (this is) a difficult situation," Clark said. "Not to play with your teammates is a tough situation, but to have to wonder after every play if you're going to be alright is also a stressful situation."

Instead, Clark will watch in street clothes as Ryan Mundy steps into the Steelers' lineup.

Clark hasn't missed a start when healthy since playing for the Washington Redskins in 2004.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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