St. Joseph, Mo.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark says he had a heart-to-heart conversation with coach Andy Reid after last season.
The message: 2021 wasn’t good enough.
“He’s like, ‘I know what type of player you are. You know what type of player you are. You didn’t show that this season. Flat-out,’” Clark said. “I understand that. Me and Coach, we’re very real.”
It was a chat that was part of a domino effect in the past few months, with Clark revealing Saturday at Chiefs training camp that he gave up drinking alcohol in February.
That change, along with other dietary shifts — like cutting down on red meat — have made him noticeably thinner during training camp. Clark hopes the work will lead to more explosiveness following last year’s 4.5-sack campaign.
“It’s obvious. You can watch the film and see, I was way heavier. I had a gut. It was like I was looking sloppy out there, you know what I mean?” Clark said. “The type of guy I am, I’m a professional. I understand how this goes. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to come in a presentable fashion in everything that you do. And me as a professional, I felt like I needed to change my body, I needed to change my mental. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Clark said he wasn’t a heavy drinker before this year but let himself go too often in the offseason. That could be having a drink at a restaurant or ordering shots with friends. He noticed once he stopped consuming liquor in the last few months, many of the gastrointestinal problems he’d had went away.
“As I’m going on, I’m training, I feel my body is responding to me,” Clark said. “I’m able to get up, I’m able to work out, all times of day, all times of night. It was a commitment I made.”
Clark said he entered camp last year at 262 pounds — his heaviest since his third year in the NFL. His goal this year was to get back into the 250-255 range in an effort to be quicker off the ball.
Moving on from alcohol, Clark said, also was part of a larger shift in his life.
“At some point, you’ve got to grow up,” Clark said. “I’ve got three kids. I’ve got kids looking at me every day. I’ve got a 6-year-old daughter who’s looking at Daddy, looking at me to make the right decisions.
“I can’t afford to be nowhere drunk, nowhere missing times, missing dates, missing anything that’s important. And I’ve got too many important events coming up in my life.”
Reid appeared to kick-start the transformation with some brutal honesty. Clark said player and coach, in this instance, share a more profound bond because they both grew up in Los Angeles. Because of that, the two have always been comfortable remaining honest.
“I didn’t do my job like I should have — in my opinion — to my capability,” Clark said of 2021. “In some people’s opinion, that’s an average year. I watch the average players get five sacks or whatever in a year. But to my standard, that’s not good enough, and obviously to my coach, and I appreciate him for that, for holding me to that standard.”
Clark, who had his deal restructured in the offseason to remain with the Chiefs, said he loved KC and had no interest in going elsewhere for 2022. Part of that was because of the way last season ended following the Chiefs’ home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship.
“We’ve got unfinished work,” Clark said. “I feel like last year, we left off on a pretty sour taste, had a lot of high hopes but didn’t accomplish our goals.”
Clark said he’s plenty motivated in his eighth year to move past that disappointment — the proof coming from the months-long effort he made to improve his body ahead of this season.
“I’m in a wonderful place. Yeah, I’m in a great place,” Clark said Saturday. “Like I said, you go through things — you’re supposed to go through things. I don’t know nobody who don’t. The thing about me, I’m a soldier. I ain’t never wavered. I’m a stand-up guy. I’m not scared to face the facts.
“But at the end of the day, you go through it, you grow through it. That’s a fact.”