Jets' Chuck Clark Still Miffed By Ravens And Fired Up To Prove Himself Again After Missing Last Year

New York Jets safety Chuck Clark speaks with reporters at the NFL football team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Dennis Waszak Jr.)
New York Jets safety Chuck Clark speaks with reporters at the NFL football team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Dennis Waszak Jr.)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Chuck Clark felt disrespected at this time a year ago, unhappy with how things went down for him in Baltimore.

He brought a prove-them-all-wrong attitude with him to New York last offseason when the Jets acquired him from the Ravens, eager to be a pivotal piece of an already solid secondary.

Then, on the final play of the final practice of voluntary organized team activities, Clark tore the ACL in one of his knees and was sidelined for the season.

“I couldn’t believe it when it did happen,” Clark said Tuesday, recalling how he thought his knee was simply just sore. “I wasn’t accepting it, you know? So I was like, 'I’m moving around. It's just not true.'”

After surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation while sticking around the team trying to do whatever he could while sidelined, Clark is healthy again and back on the field.

But that fire still burns.

“I mean, I ain't forgot about that,” a smiling Clark said of the Ravens. "I've still got that chip on my shoulder. But I think going through that injury process, it just gave me a new gratitude and gratefulness for this game. I've still got a lot to prove. I missed the whole year.

"People might be like, ‘Oh, he lost a step.’ Yeah, all right. Watch.”

The 29-year-old Clark has never lacked confidence. Being sidelined an entire season hasn't changed that a bit.

“He looks good,” coach Robert Saleh said. “He’s worked his tail off. He’s been here every day. He didn’t have to. Even last year during the season, he didn’t have to be here to rehab, but he was here and staying connected to the team. He’s putting together a good OTA and (we're) excited about the trajectory at which he’s going.”

Clark was acquired in March 2023 by the Jets from the Ravens for a seventh-round pick in this year's draft. When he met with the media last offseason, he said he was “ready to get out of there,” referring to Baltimore, where he played his first six NFL seasons after being drafted in the sixth round in 2017 out of Virginia Tech.

Clark requested a trade after the Ravens drafted Kyle Hamilton with the 14th overall pick in 2022 and signed Marcus Williams as a free agent. His starting role diminished when the Ravens moved Hamilton into Clark’s spot.

He got his wish when he was sent to the Jets. With Lamarcus Joyner not re-signed by New York, the plan was to have Clark team with veteran Jordan Whitehead as the starting safety duo. The injury changed all that and undrafted second-year safety Tony Adams stepped up and played well as a starter.

Whitehead wasn't re-signed this offseason, but the Jets brought Clark back on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.125 million. He's again projected as a starter, this time with Adams.

“Just in the short time that I had last year, probably I'd say six weeks to get to show what I could do," Clark said, "It meant a lot for them to hit me back and be like, ‘Hey, man, we want you back.’”

Clark's year away from the field ended a personal iron man streak during which he played 1,248 consecutive snaps dating to Week 16 of the 2021 season for Baltimore.

“That was the first time in 23-plus years that I hadn’t played football in the fall time,” Clark said. “So just seeing everybody go out there and line up for games and getting the game plan and whatnot, and I was seeing it from afar, you know, watching through the windows during the workouts, I think that that was the toughest part. ”

Clark is again right where he always expects to be — in the middle of the defense, looking to make plays. And he insists he has plenty left.

“That's the crazy thing, is like, yeah, I missed a year but you have a lot of thoughts going in your head," Clark said. "Like, man, going into Year Seven and you tear your ACL, it's probably one of the worst things that could happen that we think of as players.

“And it’s like, yeah, that happened, but I knocked that process down and I’m back and I’m like, all right, cool.”