Clark also is looking forward to his first return to the state of Michigan since he was kicked off the team at the University of Michigan near the end of his senior season.
Frank Clark’s electric start to the season has underscored his worth as a pass rusher, and now the question of his long-term future suddenly looms as a large question mark hovering over the Seahawks.
But Wednesday, Clark insisted that at the top of his mind this week is a return to Michigan for Seattle’s first game against the Lions in Detroit since he became a Seahawk in 2015.
That spring, Seattle drafted Clark in the second round out of the University of Michigan, located in nearby Ann Arbor. The pick was colored in controversy because Clark was kicked off the Michigan football team following his arrest on domestic violence charges during the week of what would have been his final home game. Clark later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Asked if he thinks his Seattle career has begun to paint him in a more favorable light given the image he had entering the league, Clark spoke of the end of his Michigan career as well as a youth that included a stint when he was homeless.
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“I started that five, four years ago now,’’ he said. “It’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the things that I’ve been through in my life and how they have affected me. Everything I went through up until that point. And to get drafted in the second round shows you where I could have been. At the end of the day I feel like everything happens for a reason. It happened. Today I’m glad to say that I’m a better guy than I was four, five years ago and that I could just keep on going up.’’
Clark knows that incident will follow him through his career. But in returning to Detroit, he hopes he will be able show the people he cares about that he has taken steps to ensure the domestic violence charge and his dismissal from Michigan did not derail his life.
“It’s very important,’’ he said of returning to Michigan. “I’m going to put on a show. That’s my goal. Because I don’t like how I went out the last time I played at Michigan. My last time I was suspended from the team for basically the end of my career there, and at the end of the day the one thing I wanted to do is come back and give those people something to watch and let them know what the Seahawks are all about.’’
And in the process, Clarks hopes to continue a season in which he feels he has shown the Seahawks and the NFL what he is all about, and one in which he thinks he has continued to answer the questions that followed him into the league.
Clark had 2.5 sacks to spark a 27-3 win over the Raiders in London on Oct. 14, and now has 5.5 sacks on the season, 11th in the NFL. He did so despite playing just 29 snaps — by far his fewest of the season — because he felt ill in the second half. Clark said he felt ill because he forgot to bring to London the food poisoning medication he was prescribed after eating some suspect turkey burgers the week before.
Being without his medication “kind of took a toll on me towards the end of the week,’’ Clark said.
Even so, his Oakland performance was so dominant that it rekindled talk of Clark’s future because the 2018 season is the last year on his original four-year rookie contract.
Clark said before the season that he was hoping Seattle would offer him a new contract.
“Do I want a new one? Yes,’’ Clark said at the time.
That hasn’t changed, and Clark said on Wednesday that he still hopes to get a deal done with Seattle.
“Hell yeah,’’ he said, then repeated. “Hell yeah, hell yeah. Of course. There’s no other place I’d rather be than Seattle. My family loves it here. My daughter (2-year-old Phoenix) was born here in Bellevue. So there’s no other place.’’
But Clark and his representatives also appear willing to make sure he gets what he’s worth.
Clark’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, told ESPN.com this week that Clark would be fine with getting the franchise tag for the 2019 season, which would likely pay Clark a guaranteed one-year salary in excess of $17 million. Burkhardt also said Clark had taken out a loss-of-value insurance policy in the case of major injury or illness.
Seattle hasn’t used the franchise tag since 2010 on kicker Olindo Mare and it’s generally considered a last resort and as both sides continue to work on a long-term deal. Burkhardt saying he’d consider it an option also appears to show that Clark won’t take less than that amount.
Clark confirmed the existence of the insurance policy during an interview Wednesday.
“Yeah, it’s cool,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, it’s just an insurance policy. I know an insurance policy ain’t nothing what I know I can be worth, though. So at the end of the day, I’m just going to keep on going. My head is down and I ain’t looking up until the marathon is finished.’’
The reality is that with the Seahawks having little cap space for the remainder of this season — a reported $3.09 million as of Wednesday — an extension for Clark likely can’t get done until after the season is completed, since any signing bonus would have to be prorated into this season.
Since Clark can’t talk to other teams until the new league year begins in March, there is plenty of time for both sides to reach an agreement after the season, when Seattle will have plenty of cap room (an estimated $54 million as of Wednesday, according to OvertheCap.com — currently eighth among NFL teams).
All of which means this issue probably won’t be settled soon.
Asked about Clark’s contract status Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll said the two sides are talking but didn’t indicate anything is imminent.
“We’re always working,’’ Carroll said. “Frank, all of our guys. As you know we always have kind of a process to it. (Seahawks general manager) John (Schneider) has been working on it throughout. There have been good conversations and stuff over time and I think we are clear where we are and we are trying to figure stuff out.
“Frank is playing great football. He has been a tremendous factor in our program for a long time. He has just continued to mature and take over and become a leader in a number of ways. It makes him a real valuable player for us. So it’s ongoing.’’
Clark indicated Wednesday he’s ready for the long haul, if needed. Though, he also showed in the offseason that he was willing to play hardball when he didn’t attend the team’s voluntary Organized Team Activities, which he acknowledged was due in part to his contract situation.
“Honestly, you’ve got to think about it,’’ Clark said. “It’s not something you can’t not think about it … At the end of the day if I can secure a long-term deal I‘m great with it. I’m happy. I love it, being here in Seattle.
“But if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t, and there are 31 other teams that probably could have me. So, just got to keep on going with this season and keep on moving forward by the weeks and keep on just preparing to beat these teams so we can get on this run to the playoffs.’’