Share This Page

Starkey: Can't Steelers, Ravens be friends?

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 11:20 p.m.

“There's not a fan sitting at home with a dislocated rib that may burst his aorta if he plays football. There's no fan with a swollen hip because he tried to make a tackle. If you had fans who did that, who felt that way right now, I'm sure they'd take off work. We don't have that opportunity. And if we decide to have friends and congregate with other teams after the game, it shouldn't matter to them as long as we give 100 percent between the lines.”Steelers safety Ryan Clark

There's a conversation starter. Juicy topic, too: How much fraternizing, and what type, is acceptable among NFL players?

And who exactly is in the best position to make that call?

The subject arises in the wake of Clark visiting the Baltimore Ravens' locker room 45 minutes after the Steelers' loss two weeks ago at Heinz Field.

Some fans were angry with Clark, who walked into the Ravens' victorious locker room — after most players had cleared out — and playfully pretended to be a reporter. He put a tape recorder into the media scrum surrounding his longtime friend, Ravens safety Ed Reed, and asked a question.

Nobody on the '70s Steelers would even think of visiting the other team's locker room after a game … right?

Wrong, actually.

Turns out legendary linebacker Jack Ham did just that after a big game against a bitter rival.

“After the Super Bowl against the Cowboys in Miami, I went into see (quarterback Roger) Staubach,” Ham said. “We hit him a ton. He hung in there and threw the ball. I went into his locker room and just said, ‘You are one helluva competitor.' ”

The opinions that arise from within the fraternity itself should hold the most weight on this issue, and Ham agrees with Clark that it's nobody's business what happens between participants after a game. Other ex-players, however, hold radically different opinions.

Some observers had a similar feeling when an NBC camera caught Steelers receiver Antonio Brown laughing with Reed on the field late in the recent game, during a break, as Steelers receiver Jerricho Cotchery lay injured behind them. Brown claims he and Reed were praying for Cotchery.

Former Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington couldn't believe it when I told him that Clark had visited Baltimore's locker room.

Washington, remember, was a teammate of Joey Porter's — and Porter once walked the same postgame route as Clark but on a very different mission, in 2003. Porter was looking for Ray Lewis. The two exchanged heated words in the Heinz Field corridor.

“Visiting their locker room right after the game? Nobody I played with would ever do that,” Washington said.“I didn't even want to know what their locker room looked like. But you know, different time, different era.”

Can you imagine if Porter or Hines Ward walked into the Ravens' locker room after a game? Either one might have come out on a stretcher.

“I don't think Hines would be received well at all,” said Steelers tackle Max Starks. “Joey for that matter, either.”

Clark couldn't care less if Ward or Porter would have done the same thing.

“Much as I love Hines and Joey Porter, I'm truly not concerned with the way they chose to conduct themselves,” Clark said. “I play football for the Steelers organization and for Steeler Nation. I don't live my life for the fans. I live my life for God, for my family, my friends and myself, and I'm going to conduct myself any way I want to according to those morals, according to those rights and wrongs.”

Maybe the lesson here is that fraternization, whether anyone likes it or not, is on the rise. Ravens running back Ray Rice shook hands with Clark when the latter entered the locker room. Rice said he doubts he'd ever go into the Steelers' locker room, but … “I don't see any problem with it,” Rice said. “The game's over and done with. You leave all that other stuff on the field.”

Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at jraystarkey@gmail.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.