Ryan Clark is perfectly healthy yet needs to decide if he will board the plane this weekend and fly to Denver with his Steelers teammates and face the Broncos. Clark has made this trip before and in all honesty it nearly killed him.
It was 2007 and the Steelers and Broncos played on a Sunday Night. Clark began having complications and stayed behind after the rest of his teammates traveled back to Pittsburgh. At the time it was reported that Clark had injured his spleen during the game. That was partially correct, but didn't come close to addressing the severity of the situation.
Clark had suffered from complications due to a sickle-cell trait he carries. That trait, along with another ailment, combined with the high altitude to wreak havoc on Clark. Parts of his spleen failed to get oxygen and, essentially, died. Doctors were forced to remove Clark's spleen, and a few weeks later, his gall bladder due to the reaction.
Once doctors were able to figure out what was wrong with Clark and remove the two organs, they told the safety that he could play again. But the 5-11, 205-pounder was down to 170 pounds.
"I knew I had the sickle-cell trait before," said Clark. "But most people who have it, it never presents a problem. Only about 1% of the people who have the trait ever have the reaction that I had to the altitude."
Clark's teammate Santonio Holmes also carries the trait, but has never had an issue playing in Denver.
For Clark the decision becomes whether to play on Monday Night. According to the Steelers, Clark has received the medical clearance to play. For their part, they are covering all the bases - backup safety Ryan Mundy practiced with the first team on Monday for the first time all season.
Either way, this is another glimpse into just how fragile life can be - and a reminder that this is just a game.