KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After two weeks of battling a stomach ailment that put him in the hospital and caused him to lose almost 20 pounds, Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark finally found himself feeling good following his team's 23-3 win over the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
“It was a snow day out there today.,” Clark said. “Had some fun. Got the W, held them under 100 yards rushing. That's a good day on defense if you ask me.”
Sunday's win over Denver brought to a close a long two weeks for Clark. He developed a stomach virus heading into last week's game against the Patriots that kept him out of practice. The Chiefs managed his work load against the Patriots, holding him to 31 snaps. Head coach Andy Reid said “the son of a buck just found a way to pound through it.
“He hoots and hollers at me, 'I want to play more,'” Reid said last week. “How great is that, right? That attitude of, 'I want to be out there, I want to help. I don't feel very good, but I'm going. I'm ready to go.' That's infectious."
Even when he's not feeling well – whether it's battling the pinched nerve he suffered during the preseason or fighting through the flu – Clark always wants to play.
“I get on my coaches about that,” Clark said. “They try to limit me sometimes when situations like this come up. I just try to make them understand the type of guy I am. I just want to be out there playing. I love football. It's what keeps me sane.”
That sanity got tested again this week. The stomach ailment didn't go away. It appeared to get worse this week, and the Chiefs connected Clark with a specialist for a second opinion. He started the season weight between 260 to 265 pounds. Now he's down to about 245. Clark asked himself the same questions everyone seemed to ask.
“What else is wrong?” Clark said. I''m sure that's what anyone is thinking, I'm sure that's what everyone is thinking, what's going on with Frank.”
Clark said the complications stem from his emergency appendectomy in March 2017. “My stomach has a little bit weaker immune system, a little bit weaker, so I've got to do a better job of fighting stuff off on my side of things and just stay on top of things,” Clark said.
The stomach issues came after Clark spent the first half of the season dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck that caused debilitating pain. Two fingers on his hand would go numb. For the first time in his life, football wasn't fun.
“Starting the season off, I was probably at 20 percent, honestly to start the season,” Clark said. “I had a lot of doctors tell me I shouldn't even start the season. I shouldn't even have been playing.”
The Chiefs finally shut down Clark for two games following their Week 7 win at Denver. He didn't want to sit down – “I don't quit,” he said. “If I can run, I give myself every shot to play every week. That's been my mentality my whole career.”
But the rest did wonders for Clark, and it's certainly not a coincidence Kansas City's defensive renaissance began upon his return. After a hiccup against Tennessee, the Chief have won four-straight games while yielding a league-best 11.3 points per game during that stretch.
Clark has tallied 17 tackles including five for a loss with three sacks and seven quarterback hits in his past five games. All those totals match or exceed his output through the first seven games of the season.
Against the Broncos, Clark made his presence felt the loudest in two fourth-down situations in the fourth quarter. On both plays, Clark used a quick move to get to the outside of Broncos right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, putting pressure on quarterback Drew Lock and forcing a rushed throw. Reid thought those plays stood out in the defense's strong performance Sunday.
“I thought our defense played excellent football,” Reid said. “The two fourth down stops and a bunch of other things. They just played sound, solid football.”
Clark knows the injuries kept him for living up to both his own lofty standards as well as the expectations that come with being the team's highest paid player. He's grateful that his teammates stood by him throughout a challenging season.
“You hear stuff out on the field when you play other teams and you see what other teams go through,” Clark said. “You see how guys talk about other guys in the locker room. I just thank God for my teammates and my coaches, how they understood what I was going through, understood how I was fighting, how much I wanted to be out there.”
Now Clark finds himself playing his best football of the season at just the right time.
“We'll keep on pushing, keeping on going, I'll be all right,” Clark said. “Playoff push.”