When I told Larry my UPS driver, looking ever so dapper in his sweaty Brown uniform, that I had an interview scheduled with Saints linebacker Danny Clark he responded excitedly, "He's our best linebacker right now!"
One could certainly make that argument. At the very least, he's playing darn good football. After a slow start, Clark has come on strong the past two games and made his presence felt. Saints opponents have only rushed for a combined 83 yards during that time and Danny's 11 tackles are a big reason why.
But until now, not much has been known about the veteran linebacker who is in New Orleans on his second tour of duty with the Payton regime. Which is why the timing of our conversation couldn't have been more perfect. If he's going to impress all of us on the field, I think it's about time we all get to know Danny Clark a little better. As it turns out, he is one cool dude and was more than willing to answer all of my questions. Many thanks to him for taking the time out of his busy schedule for us.
Part one of our conversation can be found after the jump. Check back later this afternoon for part two.
Canal Street Chronicles: A lot of fans may not remember this but you were actually on this team in 2006. So how does it feel to be back?
Danny Clark: It's huge. I'm proud to say I was a part of the new regime that built this current ball club. I feel like I've still been a part of it, watching it from afar in New York. It's been a treat to finally get back and see some of the guys grow up. To see guys four years down the road turn from young men into professionals.That's the impressive part.
CSC: How is the team different now than what it was in 2006?
DC: Well, the way that it's different from 2006 is that everbody was trying to figure out there role. We didn't know how good Drew was going to be that year coming off shoulder surgery. We didn't know about Sean Payton as a first-time head coach. You had Reggie Bush as a rookie, the second overall pick of the draft. We had all of these different moving parts. We found out we were very good early on but we wound up losing to Chicago in the NFC Championship Game. We knew that we could win. That was 2006.
To go away and watch Drew Brees and that offense pick up more and more momentum and get more explosive was a treat to watch. I had a huge connection with the city of New Orleans. Re-opening the Dome in 2006 was the most exciting experience I've ever had in football. To be able to come back and re-connect with this community, these fans and this ball club speaks volumes.
I'm excited to see the guys now. There's definitely a sense of confidence now. Of knowing that we have the ability to do what it takes to be successful. We have a really good team. Player for player we may not have all the best athletes on any given roster but you put these guys together on game day and it's tough to beat us. That's the difference I see. It's become a culture of winning versus just a bunch of guys getting together in 2006.
CSC: In 2006 you were playing for defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. This year, obviously, the coordinator is Gregg Williams. What are the differences between the two?
DC: Gary Gibbs was more of a laid back coach. He wasn't very vocal. But he got his point across and the guys played well for him. He's doing a great job in Kansas City now. But on the contrary, you have Gregg Williams. He is the most vocal, animated, passionate guy when it comes to teaching his players how to play the game and how to attack an offense. The old phrase, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks' goes out the window when it comes to Gregg Williams because he taught me so much in such a small amount of time about how to break down an offense, I guess because he's coached offense in the past so he understands how to attack them until they submit. I think his attitude permeates through to our defense and that's why they've been so successful the last two years.
CSC: You're telling me that even though you're a veteran who's been around the block, you're still learning things from Gregg Williams?
DC: I still learn things. He teaches you different ways to approach the game. Not just finding out what you do but what the whole entire package is and where you fit in that call. You've got to realize, this is my eleventh year. I've had eleven different defensive coordinators. He has a huge defensive package. His Ready List is probably two pages longer than any other coordinator I've ever played for but it all makes sense. I spent three days with his son, Blake, when I first signed and he gave me a rough, Readers Digest copy of the playbook. We combed through it, I learned it in a couple of days and I'm ready to go. So now I have the opportunity to work on getting better at technique and make sure that I am accountable to my teammates.
CSC: You've played every different linebacker position throughout your career but what's your favorite? What do you consider your natural position?
DC: Well, naturally I'm a quarterback - I played all through high school - but I gave that up going into college. Now that I'm playing linebacker of course I want to be playing middle linebacker. That's my favorite. That's the quarterback of the defense. But we have a darn good MLB here so that's not going to happen. But that's my dream position just because I like to lead guys, keep eye contact with every guy in the huddle and make sure that I can get everybody lined up and move forward. Middle linebacker is just my prime position, if there was any.
CSC: Speaking of Vilma, I know he's got the freedom to make adjustments out there but how often is he doing that? How often do you stick with the play that's called?
DC: Gregg Williams calls the game like a player would call it so he and the players are almost one and the same. When Gregg calls something through the helmet it's pretty much on point with what we, as players, want called. We have a great relationship with our defensive coordinator. Again, he teaches you how to attack an offense so it all goes hand-in-hand as far as what the players are thinking and what the coordinator is thinking. That has been a key to our success early on.
CSC: I've noticed you've got a knack for stopping the run. It seems to be what you do best. Do you think that's why you were brought here and do you think that's your role on this team?
DC: I had a couple of nicknames back in the day. 'The Hammerhead'. 'The Assassin' in Jacksonville. I was always told by my coaches to do what you do well. What I do well is stop the run. I take pride in it. When I look at the stats, at what running backs do against us, I always take a peak to see what he did per carry and total rushing yards. I think they brought me here definitely to help shore up our run defense and just help out an already strong linebacking corp. They welcomed me with open arms. These are Super Bowl champions, guys that have reached the promised land. But they're not comfortable with that, they're looking to get another one. I want to be a part of this second run so I'm excited.
Check back later this afternoon for part two...