A year ago last spring, the Kansas City Chiefs traded a first and second-round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive lineman Frank Clark, whom the team then signed to a five-year, $105.5 million contract.
Early returns on Clark were underwhelming. While few doubted he was a good player — and he clearly seemed to be the defensive leader the Chiefs wanted — his production didn’t seem to be matching his big contract.
In late October, though, we learned there was a reason: Clark had been playing through a neck injury that ultimately kept him completely out of two midseason games — and likely affected his play for weeks before that. But as his health improved, so did the team’s defensive fortunes over the final weeks of the season — and Clark proved invaluable to the team during the postseason run, making big plays to close out games as the Chiefs reached — and won — Super Bowl LIV.
Now, however, a refreshed and jovial Clark says he is finally starting the season in good health — despite battling an illness in training camp.
“I am feeling better,” the defensive end told reports on Thursday. “Our staff here did a great job in just me coming back in from our offseason, just getting everything corrected so that i could start this season off fresher than I did last year. Also, just getting through camp. I started off camp a little sick, but I was able to come back at the midway point and finish our camp strong. Just getting my feet under myself was my goal: to just to start the season healthier than I started the previous years.
“Man... dating back, what? Three years? It seemed like I started every season with a different injury — whether it was an elbow or a neck or this or that... something different. Just to start this season off — and continue to go into the week strong, intending to be out there with my guys — is dope, man.”
During the season opener against the Houston Texans, it wasn’t hard to see that Clark was feeling better.
An incomplete collection of Frank Clark's get-off last night. This looked different than last year, even at the end, when he was really good. pic.twitter.com/ApuqXwko6r— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) September 11, 2020
Clark’s Thursday mood with the press also spoke volumes. After poking fun at ESPN’s Adam Teicher for the hat he said he was wearing in Clark’s honor, he threw some jabs when our own Pete Sweeney asked him if he took pride in his ability as a coverage player.
“I’m really a DB in my spare time,” deadpanned Clark. “Back in the day, I used to play a little bit of DB — so my hips [are] still good; I can still open up. Hips, eyes, hands... that’s what you need as a DB. My coaches gave me the verification — let me know I had everything [and] it checked out.
“I’ve got to work on my backpedal, so I’m going to get with T [Tyrann Mathieu] today after practice. I’m going to work on my backpedal a little bit — and driving out of that. And my off-hand jam — I’ve got to work on my off-hand jam a little bit. You know, this tight end this week thinks he’s going to run some routes on me.”
A healthy, fun-loving Clark could be just what the doctor ordered for the Chiefs defense to maintain the swagger they acquired during the last nine games of 2019. Just watch out for the off-hand jam.