He's Thriving in Pittsburgh, but Clark Says 'It'll Be Cool to Be Back'

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ryan Clark proved to himself, and to the rest of the football world, that he was worthy of the NFL while in Washington. So when he comes back to FedEx Field tonight with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his first trip to the stadium since leaving the Redskins as a free agent in 2006, he will do so with a smile.

Clark, a safety who started for Washington in 2004 and 2005, remains in contact with several members of the organization, including safety Sean Taylor, linebacker Marcus Washington, cornerback Ade Jimoh and safeties coach Steve Jackson.

Clark badly wanted to remain in Washington, but the Redskins were intent on making a splash with high-priced free agent Adam Archuleta. Still, Clark left on good terms, and he still lives in Leesburg, making three trips to Redskins Park this offseason to reconnect with friends in the organization.

"It'll be cool to be back there," Clark said via cellphone from Pittsburgh's training camp this week. "Being a preseason game, it won't be as emotional as it will be fun. It's always good to see the guys, and I keep up with a lot of them. I still have my connections down there, and it'll be good to be back at FedEx, where I played so many games and can see so many familiar faces. I really enjoyed playing there, and I didn't leave things in any kind of ugly situations. There was respect on both sides, and now it'll be fun to get back there and show what I can do."

Clark said he thanks God every day that the Redskins pulled him from obscurity in 2004. Clark was working in alumni relations for Louisiana State, his alma mater, and figured his playing days were over. He ended up making the roster. Now Clark knows he belongs at this level, and he's entering his second season starting for Pittsburgh.

"Mentally, I'm in a different place now," Clark said. "Then, I was so worried about football. Now, man, it's God first, then family and then football. For a long time I kind of let what happens on the field run my life, and I'm not like that anymore. I come out here and play and have a good time. For a few years, I was playing to be in the NFL; it's a lot different now. People know I can play, and I made my impact in the league, and I've been in the league for six years and a starter for three, so it's all fun for me now, and it's been a good ride."

Cornerback Picture Takes Shape

The Redskins are trying to evaluate eight cornerbacks in camp, which is no small task. The top trio is set -- Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot -- but beyond that, there is much competition.

Veteran David Macklin, who signed as a free agent, and Jimoh, a longtime reserve, have been the second pairing in practice. Former NFL starter Jerametrius Butler is behind after missing much time with a hamstring injury, and he is not back at practice.

Youngsters John Eubanks and Leigh Torrence are trying to establish themselves, and undrafted free agent Byron Westbrook impressed the coaches in the offseason and has long-term potential.

Several of the players will be cut by the start of the season next month -- with perhaps a few landing on the practice squad -- but all are finding at least some role in the preseason rotation.

"I don't think you can ever have too many corners in this league," said Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. "As the league has become more wide open, the only way that you can negate that or attempt to slow it down is to have good matchups at corner." . . .

Tailback Clinton Portis (knee), tackle Chris Samuels (knee), defensive end Jamaal Green (shoulder) and tight end Tyler Ecker (groin) will not be in uniform tonight. Guard Todd Wade (shoulder) is not scheduled to start but still might play, according to the team.

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