Coach Mike Tomlin is not ready to make a decision on whether or not safety Ryan Clark will play against the Broncos on Monday night in Denver, even though he has been given medical clearance.
Clark has the sickle cell trait and had when he played in Denver in 2007 his blood reacted poorly to the Denver air, resulting in an illness that resulted in him having his spleen and gall bladder removed and missing the remainder of the season.
Tomlin addressed the issue on Monday, and the following is what he had to say:
Has a decision been made on Ryan Clark playing or not in Denver?
Tomlin: Here is the situation with Ryan. Ryan and myself met with a team of physicians on Thursday. He has received medical clearance to play in this football game, so now the decision lies with he and myself. We are going to weigh all of our options and evaluate this thing as we proceed throughout the week. Itís not a decision that needs to be made now as opposed to later. We understand the elements of what he is dealing with. I am sure at some point this week he and I are going to sit down and decide what actions we are going to take. But he has received medical clearance from the docs and that was step one to even consider the possibility of allowing this man to play. His physical health, his well-being is paramount. We are going to attempt to do what is right. We are going to weigh all of our options and come to a decision here at some point this week. I really havenít put a timetable on it at this point.
Is it possible he could say I want to play and you would say no?
Tomlin: Thatís a possibility. Sure.
From your experience, is it tougher to breath in Denver?
Tomlin: I donít have a problem breathing when I go to Denver.
Have you noticed a difference there?
Tomlin: I canít.
Santonio Holmes also has said he has the sickle cell trait. Do you do anything special in his case?
Tomlin: Itís more than the sickle cell trait. There are a lot of people that play football in Denver with the sickle cell trait. Ryan is a unique case where it is the sickle cell trait and a combination of something else, which I am not educated to speak on. But it is the sickle cell trait in combination with some other pre-existing medical issue that creates it. Santonio is not in any unique risk unless he too shares that same medical situation, which I believe at this point he does not.
What do you need to hear from the doctors to allow Ryan to play and what does he need to hear to say he is willing to play?
Tomlin: I think before we considered anything, we needed to hear just that. ĎOkay, Ryan, you are at no medical risk, or no extra medical risk to participate in this game than anyone else is.í He and I have received that, but we are still going to proceed with extreme caution. Thatís what we are going to do. We are not going to hurry the process. We are going to proceed through our week. He is going to take in information and reps and prepare to play in the football game. His back-ups are going to do the same and at the appropriate time we will sit down and come to a decision.
Do you work other guys in at practice in case he doesnít play?
Tomlin: Ryan is healthy enough to practice so we are going to let him practice. We are going to be prudent as well and give other people some reps. Those guys defensively are interchangeable. They are always prepared to play. We play Deshea (Townsend) at safety. We play Keiwan Ratliff at safety, Ryan Mundy, T.C. (Tyrone Carter). Troy (Polamalu) hasnít practiced a lot here this year so it has provided opportunities for those guys to ready themselves for action. So thatís less of an issue than it could be if Troy practiced a lot this year. Those guys have got an extended amount of reps in terms of preparation to be prepared to play football games. Practice is one thing, game is the other. We wonít answer those things until we play Monday night.
Who will start if Ryan doesnít play?
Tomlin: To be determined. I still havenít determined whether or not Ryanís not going to play.