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Chiefs training camp notebook: Frank Clark admits 2021 wasn’t good enough

The 29-year-old cut out alcohol this past offseason as he eyes a bounce-back year.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark joined the media on Saturday — his first opportunity of the 2022 season — he retold the story of his March meeting with head coach Andy Reid. Clark, who has morphed from being a hero of the Super Bowl title run to arguably the most polarizing player on the team, spoke candidly.

“It was flat out, ‘I know the type of player you are. You know the type of player you are. You didn’t show that this season,’ flat out,” recounted Clark. “I understand that. Coach Reid, we’re very real. Coach Reid’s from east Los Angeles. I’m from South Central. It’s the same thing. We’re going to keep it real with each other. We West Coast boys. We LA boys, so I understand, I relate. We relate perfectly fine with each other. We both have to work hard. There wasn’t nothing easy in life... I come in last year, I’m going through what I’m going through, but I still have a job to do.

“And I didn’t do my job like I should have, in my opinion, to my capability. In some people’s opinions, that’s average. That’s an average year. I watch average players get 5.0 sacks in a year — but to my standard, that’s not good enough. And obviously to my coaches, and I appreciate them for that — holding me to that standard.”

Clark finished the 2021 season with 4.5 sacks, his lowest total since his rookie season back in 2015. In three postseason games, he didn’t get to the quarterback once. Many analysts — including myself and others who write here at Arrowhead Pride assumed that the Chiefs would walk away from Clark’s 2022 cap hit, which would be more than $20 million.

But Clark worked with the Chiefs, taking a pay cut to remain a member of the team.

“I love it here. I love Chiefs Kingdom,” said Clark, who signed a five-year, $105 million contract with Kansas City in 2019. “Four years later, I just love it here. I love the teammates — my boy Chris Jones, one of my best friends. We got unfinished work.

“I feel like last year we left off on a pretty sour taste — had a lot of high hopes but didn’t accomplish our goals, didn’t win the AFC championship, didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl. You know how we are: we got high standards here. We want to set the bar high and keep it there. Like I said, we left on a sour note, and I wanted to come back and finish on a good note.”

Clark added that he knew — right from Day 1 of the offseason — that he wanted to remain in Kansas City. Now that he has reported to training camp in St. Joseph for the 2022 season, he sounds like a man with something to prove.

Clark said he weighed more than 260 pounds at the beginning of last season — and that prevented him from being the player he desired to be.

“That was the heaviest I had been since really like my third year in the league with Seattle,” said Clark. “I hadn’t been that heavy. I haven’t played under 260. I was playing at like 255, 250, for the latter half of my career. I just wanted to get back to that. I wanted to get back to feeling my feet. I feel like I wasn’t feeling my feet at much last year. I wasn’t as quick off the ball. I wasn’t as explosive. And it’s obvious — you can watch the film and see I was way heavier. I had a gut. It was like I was looking sloppy out there.

“I’m a professional. I understand how this goes. So at the end of the day, you got to come in a presentable fashion in everything that you do — and me, as a professional, I feel like I need to change my body, I need to change my mental [approach] and that’s exactly what I did.”

To do that, Clark said he began eating better by cutting red meat out of his diet. But the most significant change was not drinking alcohol during the offseason.

“Alcohol is a big factor in a lot of things as far as weight,” he said. “It’s all sugar. So at the end of the day, I stopped drinking liquor right after the season, honestly. It was like February. I had got sick. I’ve been having stomach problems, gastrointestinal problems. I haven’t had any since I stopped drinking liquor. Then it kind of started making more sense. As I’m going on, I’m training. I feel my body is responding to me. I’m able to get up, I’m able to work out all times of day, all times of night. And so it was a commitment I made.”

At practice, it is easy to tell Clark is noticeably skinnier, and that has allowed him to work out better. The true test will come on Monday, when the Chiefs host their first padded practice — one that will include the defensive line going up against the offensive line with full contact.

Asked about his aspirations for the 2022 season, Clark simply stated he wants to be the best he can be — and a good teammate to a young room. Clark’s begun that process by taking rookie first-rounder George Karlaftis under his wing.

All that noted, more than the physical impact, Clark’s changes have led to a clear change in his attitude and demeanor.

“At some point, you got to grow up,” he admitted. “I got three kids. I got kids looking at me every day. I got a 6-year-old daughter who’s looking at Daddy — who’s looking at me to make the right decisions. I can’t afford to be nowhere drunk, nowhere missing times, missing dates, missing anything that’s important — and I got too many important events coming up in my life.”

Observations

You can find Arrowhead Pride lead analyst Ron Kopp’s full observations from Saturday’s practice here.

Post-practice chat

Press conferences

If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conferences are also available on Spotify.

Injury report

  • Did not practice (due to injury): CB Rashad Fenton (shoulder) OL Lucas Niang (knee) OL Prince Tega Wanogho (leg)
  • Left early: TE Jody Fortson (quad)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled all of Saturday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:

I think Harold’s right.

Quote of the day

Clark, describing first-round rookie George Karlaftis: “George is dope. George is a dope rookie.”

What’s next?

The Chiefs return to the practice field on Monday for their fourth workout open to the public. The practice begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Here’s the complete schedule. The team’s defensive backs will be available to sign autographs after practice as head coach Andy Reid addresses the media at the podium. It is also Chiefs Alumni Day.