Probably against the odds, given all the recent publicity, Seattle Seahawks rookie defensive end Frank Clark was better off the field than on it Friday.
In post-practice interviews, Clark and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll seemed committed to a charm strategy, trying to humanize the second-round draft pick, who has been widely derided for his involvement in a domestic violence charge that was ultimately reduced to a misdemeanor.
Squinting into a bright afternoon sun, each successively answered repeated questions about Clark’s off-field legal issues. Both reiterated their beliefs that the reduced charge of disorderly conduct was fair, and the dramatic police report of the incident didn’t reflect events as they truly unfolded.
Neither would go into details, other than again suggesting Clark was mostly guilty of putting himself in a bad position.
There will be a portion of the public that only will be convinced by Eagle Scout behavior out of Clark for a long time.
Clark would be advised to table his comments about how hard the recent months have been on him. But other than that, he presented himself well.
The thing in his favor is that he is so obviously just a young man. He conceded “I’m not a complete person; I’m not a perfect person. I’m a person who is still learning.” he said.
It’s a relatable position.
Clark and Carroll elaborated a little on Clark’s personal history, talking about his rugged upbringing in Los Angeles, including the period of homelessness when he was walking the streets hungry. And how his mother shipped him to Cleveland to get away from gang influence.
Carroll has spent a good deal of time in the tough parts of Los Angeles, working with gang interdiction squads. He concedes he has had success with some risky players, but he also has been unable to reach some.
“We live in a world of optimism around here,” Carroll said. “We’re gonna support him in the way he needs. … He’s a young man, he knows that; he’s got a lot of growing to do, and we’re going to help him through that.”
The Hawks, he said, will have some counseling in place for Clark. He also warned Clark that he’d face a lot of tough questions, that it “was going to be a rocky road,” Clark said.
On the practice field, Clark looked like most of the rest of the rookies at minicamp — inconsistent, and occasionally lost.
During an early drill simulating punt coverage, the 272-pound Clark looked extremely fast and nimble.
But then he slowed, taking a long time to run between drills, and a lot of stretching hinted at leg cramping. It caused him to sit out a while during team sessions. It’s the first day. A lot of rookies show up unprepared for the tempo of a Seahawks practice.
Near the end, he made two good pass rushes that might have ended in sacks if they’d been going at game speed.
Most rookies don’t have to answer the questions Clark did Friday, and probably what he’ll have to do for a long time because the circumstances of his charges prompt fair debate on the Seahawks’ decision to bring him to Seattle.
Clark said he’s determined to win the trust of the fans and repay the Seahawks for their faith in him.
On Friday, in the first bright glare of Seattle sunshine and scrutiny, Clark made a key admission, one that is part of his being 21 years old.
“I’m a person who still needs to get talked to by my elders, and still taught the way of life,” he said, “because I don’t know it all.”