PITTSBURGH - Ryan Clark sat down in Mike Tomlin's office and did something a little out of character for the normally verbose Pittsburgh Steelers safety. He listened.
And when Tomlin told Clark he couldn't play in Sunday's wild card game at Denver because of a sickle-cell trait that becomes aggravated when playing at higher elevations, Clark just shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
"I said 'OK coach,'" Clark said Wednesday. "It wasn't any fight ... does he seem like a man who changes his mind anyway? I knew there wasn't going to be any changing in that."
And for that, Clark is grateful. If given the choice, Clark would give it a shot even when faced with potentially dire consequences.
"Y'all have seen me play, I run into people all the time, so clearly I'm not that bright," Clark told reporters with a laugh.
He's kidding. Clark knows what's at stake.
He nearly died the last time he played in Denver, when the then-undiagnosed condition flared up and he ended up having his gall bladder and spleen removed in addition to losing 30 pounds.
Doctors cleared Clark to play this weekend but didn't make any guarantees. That's all Tomlin needed to hear.
"They couldn't tell me 100 percent that 'Nothing is going to happen to you, you're going to play and you're going to be fine' and I think that 1 percent chance was enough for coach Tomlin to take it out of my hands," Clark said.
Tomlin told Clark that if Tomlin's son Dino was in the same situation, he wouldn't let him play, the kind of blunt assessment that Clark has grown to appreciate during Tomlin's five years on the job.
"I think either way is a difficult situation," Clark said. "Not to play with your teammates is a tough situation but to have to wonder after every play if you're going to be alright is also a stressful situation."
Instead Clark will watch in street clothes as Ryan Mundy steps in. Mundy has played well when called upon this season, collecting the first interception of his career in a 13-9 win at Kansas City on Nov. 27 and even catching a pass on a fake punt in a victory over Tennessee.
While not as quick as Clark, the 6-foot-1, 209-pound Mundy makes up for it with his size. He's been a special teams ace for most of his career, though Tomlin has called Mundy "starter capable."