Penguins Sidney Crosby weighs in on head injuries suffered by Steelers Ryan Clark

Andy Lyons

The star center of the Penguins gives his take on the head injuries suffered recently by Steelers safety Ryan Clark, and gives warning that Clark is "taking a chance" in playing against Baltimore in Week 11.

Full disclosure: I could care less about hockey. It's a broken sport divided permanently by the economic differences between two countries. Its current lockout will continue for an extended period of time after they finally declare the 2012-13 season over, and we'll probably revisit the same issue in future years unless they blow the entire thing up and start over.

That being said, I respect Sidney Crosby as an athlete, and admire the foundation the Pittsburgh Penguins have build over the last several years, amid labor turmoil and dissent.

But reading about Crosby doling out advice to Steelers free safety Ryan Clark is just a tinch annoying.

In an interview with Tribune-Review Pens beat writer Josh Yohe, Crosby bids Clark warning over what he seems to think is an ill-advised decision to play after getting his bell rung in both Week 8 and Week 10.

"He's taking a chance," Crosby said. "There are a lot of things that can happen."

There sure are, Sid. It's a good time to remind you Clark has played in the NFL longer than you've played in the NHL. Despite your inability to recover from concussions, Clark is clearly not suffering from those same issues.

The main problems with concussions currently surround their long-term effects more than the short-term ones. Clark, an NFL player since 2003, and as fierce and aggressive a defensive player as the game has, no doubt is aware of the potential risks he's taking.

The fact you can score goals and require 101 games off to recover from head injuries does not make you any more of an expert on the topic than Clark. You certainly are not an expert on the workings of Ryan Clark's brain - at least not any more than I am.

It's fully possible Ryan Clark's head is more injured than it should be, but he's making the choice to play. He has a family and as much on the line as any player from either the Steelers or the Ravens, and while perhaps the warrior mentality should be questioned (as Crosby appears to be doing in this interview), we are not in a position to make the choice for him.

Crosby also mentions Clark's style of tackling may be altered due to the injuries. "He might be different with the way he tackles," Crosby said. "Is he going to lead with his head? Probably not."

The concept of "leading with one's head" in football is asinine. Where your shoulder goes, your head goes. Unless they're tackling with their posterior, the head is always going to be involved - especially when it has 10 pounds of hardened plastic and a facemask resting three inches in front of it.

It's simply about whether his head strikes the target. That's a matter of accuracy, which isn't at all easy to achieve when you're the one delivering the hits, not taking them.

Whether one leads with his head is only suggesting concussions only happen from 1-on-1 tackles and can only occur when a player hits another player in a straightforward angle. Group tackles and other guys flying in to make tackles (which is what happened with Clark against Kansas City) are probably more responsible - just less noticeable than the Jacked-Up hits the NFL glorifies.

This is not in any way suggesting Crosby is not tough enough, or even that Clark is tougher than Crosby is. I'm sure many will weigh in to debate that topic, but rather, pointing out the hypocrisy of one player paid millions in one sport advising another player paid millions in a different sport there are potential drawbacks to those concussions.

Ryan Clark clearly is not to the NFL what Sidney Crosby is to the NHL - even if they were playing right now. Crosby would probably be better off just not doling out advice or education to other Pittsburgh-area athletes.


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