Round 2: Seahawks take DE Frank Clark at No. 63

May 1, 2015, 6:49 PM | Updated: Apr 8, 2016, 10:50 am
Frank Clark was dismissed from Michigan’s football team after an incident of alleged domestic...
Frank Clark was dismissed from Michigan's football team after an incident of alleged domestic violence. (AP)
(AP)

RENTON – Before the Seahawks could talk about any of the on-field attributes of the player they chose with their first pick in the NFL Draft – his explosiveness off the snap, his versatility as a pass rusher and his competitive drive – they had a whole lot of explaining to do about an alleged incident that took place off of it.

Frank Clark the defensive end was of secondary importance Friday night to Frank Clark the individual, who was dismissed from Michigan’s football team last November after he was arrested and jailed on a domestic violence charge that was later reduced.

O’Neil: Sorting through the Seahawks’ selection of Frank Clark isn’t easy

So when general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll met with the media after the conclusion of the third round, they addressed the controversial selection of Clark before being asked about it. They made it clear that they wouldn’t have drafted Clark without the firm belief that he allegations against him were untrue.

“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background,” Schneider said, reading from a hand-written statement. “We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”

The Seahawks had the longest wait of any team in the draft, first sitting out the first round entirely and then opting not to trade up in the second. That meant waiting all the way until pick No. 63, where they made a selection that will be second-guessed for a long time because of the nature of the allegations and the heightened sensitivity in today’s NFL to domestic violence.

The alleged incident took place at a hotel in Sandusky, Ohio in November and involved Clark’s girlfriend. According to a police report, Clark was accused of punching the woman, grabbing her by her throat, picking her up and slamming her to the ground.

Clark denied hitting his girlfriend on the night of the incident, according to the police report. The arresting officer noted that damage in the hotel room as well as injuries to both the girlfriend and Clark suggested that an altercation had taken place.

Schneider was asked about the inevitable backlash to Seattle’s selection of Clark based on the brutal nature of the allegations.

“I would understand that. I have four older sisters,” he said. “I would say that there’s always two sides to a story, and you have to go through the whole thing. You can’t just go with one police report.”

The Seahawks ultimately believed the other side of the story after what Schneider described as an extensive investigation into the incident and into Clark’s background.

“We can’t tell you how much time we spent researching Frank,” he said.

Schneider happened to be at the school shortly after the incident for a previously scheduled scouting trip and said the people he spoke with there were “completely in shock” based on Clark’s reputation.

Clark’s domestic-violence charge was later reduced to disorderly conduct. An assault charge stemming from the same incident was also dropped.

Asked about the incident during a conference call with Seattle-area reporters, Clark said he regrets putting himself “in a position I shouldn’t have been in” but made it clear that his remorse wasn’t an admission that he hit his girlfriend.

“I’m not saying that I did anything wrong as far as putting my hands on a woman because the case played out how it did and I’m sure it reflected that,” he said, referring to the domestic-violence charge being reduced. “But I am sorry and I do apologize to everyone who I may have affected.”

That wasn’t Clark’s first run-in with the law. He also ran into trouble as a freshman at Michigan when he was arrested after being found with a stolen laptop. He pleaded guilty to a count of second-degree home invasion, a felony.

Clark said he’d understand why fans wouldn’t fully embrace him based on his history but added that he doesn’t “believe in judging a book by its cover.”

“I just want all the fans, I want everyone just to have faith in me,” he said. “Give me a couple of years and believe in me and I promise you – I’m saying it right now – I promise they won’t be upset.”

Why was Clark worth all the trouble even if he were innocent? That was one of the only football-related questions asked about his selection, and Schneider jumped at the chance to answer it.

“Holy cow, this is a 272-pound man who is extremely explosive,” Schneider said. “He still has an upside, he’s an interior rusher, edge rusher, can play Sam (linebacker), set the edge. They did a lot with him at the school.”

Carroll noted Clark’s strong mentality – “he is such a competitive kid and it’s so important to him to play his best” – and said he has significant room to grow, which helps explain why Seattle spent such a high pick on a pass rusher whose college production wasn’t overwhelming by any means.

Clark projects as an immediate backup to either Cliff Avril and/or Michael Bennett, and while he’ll have a chance to see the field right away given how much Seattle rotates its defensive linemen, it’s fair to wonder whether the Seahawks would have been better served using their first pick to address a more pressing need at either guard or center.

There’s are all sorts of questions about Seattle’s selection of Clark, but the biggest of which are more about what he was accused of doing off the field as opposed to what he can do on it.

“We are very sensitive to that. That’s why we had to do such a thorough job and understand what was at hand so we could clearly come to the right decision,” Carroll said. “… We would not have done this, we would not have gotten to this point – realizing there is going to be the questions and the scrutiny – if we didn’t know we were doing the right thing.”

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Round 2: Seahawks take DE Frank Clark at No. 63