Frank Clark missed OTAs but says his contract wasn't the only factor. He was also still dealing with the death of his father in January. He says he's eager for an extension, but "I don’t know what’s going to happen."
When Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark stayed away from the voluntary portion of the team’s offseason program in the spring, the easy conclusion was that he did so to make a statement about his contract.
Like a few other high-profile players (Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright, Duane Brown, Tyler Lockett), Clark is entering the final year of his contract and acknowledges he’d like an extension sooner rather than later.
For Clark, it would be a life-changing one.
Clark, 25, is finishing up a four-year rookie deal that is worth $3.7 million.
Having established himself as one of the more promising young pass rushers in the NFL — he has 22 sacks in the last three seasons and 19 in the past two — Clark could be in line for a contract paying him upward of $14 million a year, given the market for his position.
His value to the Seahawks has only grown over the last year with the departures of veterans Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and with uncertainty along the defensive line.
When Clark skipped OTAs, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his contract situation was a factor.
In his first comments to the media since, Clark said Thursday it wasn’t quite that simple.
Clark said there were a number of factors why he stayed away for much of the spring before returning for the team’s mandatory minicamp.
His father was among four family members killed in a fire in Cleveland in January, and Clark said he needed time to heal and help his family deal with the tragedy.
He was also recovering from several injuries, including a hamstring issue and broken bones in each hand.
Carroll mentioned the hamstring in June, when Clark was limited in minicamp. He didn’t mention the hands.
Clark revealed Thursday that he had surgery on his right hand about a month ago to repair an injury that dated to training camp a year ago. He also broke a bone in his left hand in the second exhibition game against Minnesota which lingered all season, he said. That, he said, healed on its own.
“I was going through so many things mentally and emotionally,’’ Clark said of missing OTAs. “Going through injuries, going through stuff with my family. It was kind of a time where I was talking to my coaches and they understood fully what I was going through. I wanted to get back 100 percent (physically) and they understood. They understood my family situation and where my mind was at. I didn’t make that a secret. I let them know. I voiced how it was and they helped me from that point on.’’
Not that Clark isn’t eager for a contract extension.
“Do I want a new one? Yes,’’ Clark said. “But at the end of the day, I can’t control that. I can only control being here for my boys and especially the defensive line group.’’
Asked if he’s talked to the team about his contract, Clark smiled and said, “Of course. But I’m not going to disclose too much.”
“But the thing that we have talked about is just the expectations of me as far as my play for the season,” Clark said. “So at the end of the day, I know if I do my job on the field, whether it’s here or anywhere else, it’s going to happen. I’ve just got to do my job, and that’s my main focus.’’
So how it will unfold?
Clark, told his above comment makes it sound as if the team might be willing to wait until the end of the season to make him the kind of offer he wants, said he has no idea.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,’’ he said. “You never know what’s going to happen in this game. I watched a lot of stuff happen this past season, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t know I was going to be coming here and six of (the team’s) top players would be gone.’’
Clark feels he has shown the Seahawks enough in his three years in Seattle to warrant staying around.
He was drafted in the second round in 2015 amid controversy, having been kicked off the team at Michigan his final year after being arrested for domestic violence, eventually pleading guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
The Seahawks cited the path Clark took to get to Michigan in the first place — he had little contact with his father for much of his youth and his mother battled drug addiction, leaving him homeless for a while — as evidence that, with a little maturity and a strong guiding hand, he could be trusted to avoid future issues.
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Clark largely has done that. Aside from two incidents — he apologized for an insensitive tweet to a female reporter in the spring of 2017 and also apologized to his teammates in camp in 2017 after a well-publicized fight with offensive lineman Germain Ifedi — he has impressed the team by playing through a number of nagging injuries and missing only two games in his first three seasons.
“I feel like I started off my career kind of rough,’’ Clark said. “Came in kind of on the rough side and I feel like I am finally bringing everything together full circle, and I’m starting to understand everything more.”
Clark didn’t miss a game last season despite the hand injuries and a hamstring injury that crept up in the third game against Tennessee and lingered for a while. Clark said a workout plan that included a steady diet of running up hills this summer has the hamstring at 100 percent.
He’s eager to show what he can do with two healthy hands, and said he expects to be 100 percent in a week or two. The surgery was performed in the summer only after Clark said further tests revealed there was still damage that needed to be fixed.
“It wasn’t easy at all,’’ Clark said of last season. “I mean, when you can’t grab. I missed sacks, man. I missed a sack against Indianapolis (in week four) because I couldn’t grab.’’
And, he said, the loss of his father and the recent lost of his grandfather has him viewing a return of another football season in a somewhat different light.
“Honestly man, football and being around my teammates has helped me a lot,’’ Clark said. “I feel like that’s my natural therapy. I’ve been using this as an outlet for everything I’ve been going through my whole life. I’ve been homeless, man. I’ve been shot at. My house has been shot at. I lost my grandfather and my father within a year. At the end of the day, things happen in life you can’t control. You keep on pushing.’’