by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Since returning to Washington to play for the Redskins, safety Ryan Clark has made one thing clear: he wants to wear No. 21 in practice, in memoriam of the late Sean Taylor.

Reaction from Redskins fans has ranged from agreement to vocal, visceral disagreement. With the latter, Clark has had a problem.

“I was just sitting with my wife, man, and it had become a really big deal,” Clark told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes on Wednesday. “A lot of people hit me up saying, whether it was from I don’t deserve to wear it, or Sean wouldn’t want me to wear it, or somebody hit me up and said ‘He was our boy.’ And my exact tweet back was ‘Your boy?’ Like ‘Your boy?’ What you mean he was ‘your boy?’”

“And so for me, it starts to get just a little frustrating, not with the fact that people want to respect Sean, or they have a lot of respect for Sean, because obviously I do as well,” he explained. “It was just that in respecting him, they had to disrespect me.”

Understanding Redskins fans’ unique connection to Taylor, in memory, Clark has maintained a cool head about the situation, going through the proper channels to ensure he could wear Taylor’s unofficially retired number without ruffling any feathers of those still connected to Taylor in any capacity.

That includes Jackie Garcia Haley, Taylor’s girlfriend and the mother of his child, also named Jackie. Clark spoke with the elder Jackie over the phone, to run the idea by her in seeking her blessing to wear No. 21.

“I just started to think, ‘Listen, I can’t please everybody,’” Clark said. “It’s not about pleasing everybody. The only person I feel like it would matter to would be Jackie. And if she had a problem with it, if she didn’t want it to be done, then there would have been no more questions asked and it would have been a dead issue.

“But for her to tell me she would love for me to do it, and to also be appreciative that I reached out to ask – that I thought highly enough of her to even ask that question – it was a beautiful thing, and my wife and I, we loved it. We’re happy that we did, happy that she said it was okay. I mean, I still have to ask Mr. Snyder because he retired the number, so it’s not a done deal that it will happen, but for me, I’m really at peace with the decision to wear it now.”

As for the fans trying to claim Taylor as theirs, in denying Clark’s right to wear the number — again, only in practice — Clark, who played with Taylor, chalks it up to a misconception of ownership.

“I think people just start to not be a fan of things, but feel a sense of ownership of a team and of a player, almost as if you belong to them,” he said.

“You have fans tell you they pay your bills. You have fans say things like that, which to me, is totally disrespectful. But this is the way that people feel, and these are the things we deal with. So it’s not just here in Washington, it’s all around the league that fans feel that they can treat or say or do anything to players that they want.”

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