Last Wednesday, newly signed Redskins safety Ryan Clark posed a question on Twitter.
Redskins fans I’ve worn #21 to practice for 6 years now. Would it be disrespectful to wear it in Washington?
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) April 2, 2014
The reaction from fans was mixed, while former teammate Clinton Portis seemed to indicate that he’d prefer the late Sean Taylor’s number remain off limits, even in practice.
— Clinton Portis (@TheRealC_Portis) April 2, 2014
During an appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s LaVar and Dukes show later that day, Clark explained his close relationship with Taylor, with whom he played for two seasons in Washington.
“The day that Sean passed, I had just got out of the hospital, battling for my life,” Clark said, referring to the emergency operation he underwent after the combination of his carrying the sickle-cell trait and playing in the high altitude of Denver deprived his major organs of oxygen. “The day I got the opportunity to fly down for the funeral, I had just gotten the tubes taken out of my side in order for me to get on the plane. So that’s what he means to me.”
Clark, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 2006, began wearing No. 21 in practice to honor Taylor in 2008 after the NFL denied his request to change his number from 25.
“Every time somebody asks me why I wear a different number to practice, I get to tell Sean’s story,” Clark continued. “I get to tell people about the guy I love. I get to tell people about the guy who was possibly on his way to being the greatest safety to ever play the game. And that got cut short. He never got to realize his full potential. But it gives me the opportunity to remind people of him. And maybe people in Washington don’t need that. Maybe that’s the thing.”
Clark, who will wear No. 25 in games, said he would have tried to switch to No. 21 if he signed with any team but the Redskins. A few days later, he tweeted that he received the go-ahead to wear No. 21 in practice from Jackie Garcia Haley, the mother of Taylor’s daughter.
Spoke to Jackie whom was engaged to Sean before he passed and she gave her blessing to wear #21 to practice. All I needed!!
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) April 5, 2014