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Steve Spagnuolo is confident that the ‘lean’ Frank Clark will still be powerful

The defensive end’s change in physique is noticeable, but his defensive coordinator doesn’t think it reduces Clark’s strength.

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

It’s always good to hear that a player is in great physical shape as they enter training camp. Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has been very open about the work he’s done this offseason to play with a lighter physique; he’s hoping it propels him to production closer to what he did for the Seattle Seahawks — or during his first year in Kansas City.

In theory, that sounds good. But are there are possible downsides? Against the run, will he be able to hold the edge as well? Will power rushes be eliminated from his game?

These natural questions were brought up to defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo as he met with media members after Thursday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri. But even if his torso now has less bulk, Spagnuolo believes Clark still has the leg power necessary to fulfill his responsibilities on the edge.

“He looks lean right now,” he acknowledged to reporters. Then he gestured to the lower half of his body. “But I’ve always said this about Frank: he’s powerful from here down.”

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

The veteran coordinator conjured up a comparison.

“Way back when when I was in Philadelphia, we had a guy by the name of Hugh Douglas,” Spagnuolo began. “Hugh was thicker than Frank, but I would always watch Hugh — and I just felt like the reason he was such a good player was how strong he was from here down, not necessarily what he had on top.

“Even though Frank may look a little light, [he still has] his long arms and explosiveness from the hips down; I think he still has that.”

His rookie teammate George Karlaftis certainly plays with power. As he explained on Tuesday, it’s something in which he has taken pride.

That can’t, however, be the only tool hanging from a pass rusher’s tool belt. That’s why Clark’s knowledge and experience can be such a big benefit to the young rookie. Spagnuolo admires both sides of their relationship.

“Frank has really taken it upon himself this year to be that kind of guy,” Spagnuolo pointed out. “[George] wants to receive that kind of information — and if he’s talking about [it], that means he enjoys it... George is a sponge, he does that with everything. He’s over there asking me questions, Joe [Cullen] questions, Terry [Bradden] questions, every vet that he can... That’s a pretty good trait, right?”

Karlaftis is lucky to have a veteran mentor like Clark — and the Chiefs are hoping they’re lucky to have a slimmed-down version of the veteran edge rusher. While Spagnuolo believes Clark’s power will still be there, that’s now being put to the test in training camp’s padded practices — followed by preseason and regular-season games, where it’ll be proven one way or the other.

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