The Seahawks just willingly drafted the NFL’s many recent issues with domestic violence directly into their locker room.
To them, he must be some pass rusher.
To many others, he will be arriving in Seattle with strikes against him before he plays a professional snap.
Seattle on Friday selected strong, athletic, fast-rushing defensive end Frank Clark with their initial pick of the draft, No. 63 overall at the bottom of the second round. The Seahawks’ highest-drafted defensive end since Bruce Irvin (15th overall in 2012) and Lawrence Jackson (28th overall in ’08) was kicked out of Michigan’s program in late November, days before his final senior-season home game, after his arrest and jailing in Northwest Ohio on charges of assault and domestic violence.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll spoke inside the team’s headquarters at the conclusion of the third round, in which they selected Kansas State’s undersized (5-9) but record-breaking wide receiver and kick returner, Tyler Lockett, with the 69th overall pick to be their new punt returner after trading three Saturday picks to get him.
The GM and coach said they spent months conducting countless interviews investigating Clark’s situation and are convinced he did not hit a woman. They added they wouldn’t have made the stunning pick if he had.
The Seahawks rarely do the expected in the NFL draft. It’s how they have separated themselves from the rest of the league, with 36 wins in their last 48 games and runs to the last two Super Bowls.
But Clark may be the riskiest, leap-of-faith pick in their franchise’s 39-year history.
He is 6 feet 2 and 277 pounds, with an explosiveness in pass rushing Seattle loves. The Seahawks list the three-year letterman and starter for 26 college games at Michigan as their “LEO,” or rush end. That’s what Cliff Avril, re-signed late last season, plays.
But the 21-year-old Clark got kicked off the team with two games left in his final season at Michigan late last season after an incident with a 20-year-old Ohio woman on a Saturday night at a hotel in Perkins Township outside Sandusky, Ohio, about an hour south of the Michigan campus. As is standard for the charge in most states, Clark was booked into Erie (Ohio) County Jail before being released on $3,000 bond.
The police report and photos introduced as evidence aren’t the best look in an NFL that has had more than its share of domestic violence issues in the last couple years.
The disposition of the charge came in April, reduced in a plea bargain to “persistent disorderly conduct,” a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Clark said he continues to undergo counseling.
“I mean, they questioned me about the incident. They went through every single detail,” Clark, who turns 22 in June, said of the Seahawks Friday night by telephone from his family home on the east side of Cleveland.
“I simply kept it real with them. I don’t pride myself on lying.”
What insiders say Clark repeatedly told Seahawks owner Paul Allen, Schneider, Carroll and top scouts: that he did not touch the woman who accused him. That he is telling the complete truth. That he is sorry for and guilty of putting himself in the wrong situation. Police came. So did the charges and a plea bargain, then the requisite counseling and remorse/rehabilitation of his image in time for the upcoming NFL draft.
In April 2012, before that year’s draft, Schneider had declared that his Seahawks would never draft a player who had a domestic violence incident in his past.
Asked Friday if that still held true, the GM said “Yep,” it still does.
In June 2012, Clark was charged with felony second-degree home invasion after he stole an Apple Macbook Air laptop from a U of M dormitory room. The then-19-year-old sophomore pleaded guilty under the provisions of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), which is designed to give “an opportunity for people under 21 with no prior convictions that it is their first and last contact with the law” as stated by the Michigan judge that adjudicated that case, according to reports from June 2012.
Of the domestic violence incident, the report from Nov. 16 states officers from the Perkins Township Police Department in Ohio were called to the Maui Sands hotel in Sandusky. There is an “X” at the top of the victim’s demographics section where the reporting officer marked the “no-injury” box. But officers took photographs as evidence that night that show what appear to be scratches and cuts inside an arm and on her upper cheek, under her left eye and low on the middle of her neck. There are also pictures of a broken lampshade in what appears to be the hotel room in question and another wall lamp knocked off its mount.
There is also a photo of a Clark, head bowed, with a fresh, bloody scratch on his nose.
“Clark was staying with (the alleged victim) and her family members. According to the report, (the alleged victim) told police that she and Clark began to argue in the hotel room, which escalated into a physical altercation,” reads police officer Martin Curran’s report.
“She stated she has been short-tempered, she got mad, and she threw the (television) remote at him,” Curran’s report said. “She advised Frank tried restraining her on the bed and that is when she bit his nose. She advised he then pushed her head down into the bed and then they both got off the bed. She advised Frank then punched her in the face and she fell back breaking the lamp. She stated she then threw an alarm clock at him and he was trying to gather his belongings to leave.”
The report noted Stephanie Burkhart, a Maui Sands hotel employee, received a phone call from people in a nearby room stating that they heard a sound “like a head was being bounced off the wall” and that small children ran to their room and stated “Frank is killing our sister.”
The police also reported Clark allegedly threatened Burkhart, saying “I will hit you like I hit her,” and physically contacted her. Burkhart declined to press charges.
The alleged victim initially refused to go to the hospital for treatment and or to press charges.
Schneider said in speaking with counselors and other third parties that worked with both Clark and his alleged victim following the Nov. 16 incident, the alleged victim corroborated Clark’s version that he did not hit her.
“There’s more than one side to a police report,” Schneider said.
Friday, Clark said: “I simply put myself in a position I should not have been in, at a time I shouldn’t have been there. I take full responsibility. I take full responsibility for (stealing) the laptop. That’s all I can do. I can’t go back and turn back the hands of time.”
Asked if he expected Seahawks fans to shun or be critical of him in the coming weeks, Clark said: “I mean, I do. It’s just reality, though, you know what I mean?
“I wish they don’t. I don’t believe in judging a book by its cover. Like I tell everybody, you get to know me — like everyone says: ‘Frank’s not an angry guy. The only time Frank is angry is on the field.’ And that’s what I believe the Seahawks want me to be, is angry.
“I just want all the fans, everyone, to just have faith in me. Give me a couple years to believe in me. And I promise you — I am saying it right now — I promise you they won’t be upset.”
The Seahawks have made big moves from unexpected places in the last five years to build a powerhouse. But this pick may be the riskiest of a franchise history of iffy picks. It comes with the need of explanation. And not a little bit of faith in Clark. And in their rabid fan base.
The “optics”? Carroll said the team is indeed concerned about those.
“We are really concerned, of course we are,” said the Seahawks coach. “That’s why we had to do such a thorough job (investigating). We came to the conclusion we could give this guy the opportunity. We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t think that.”