After all, the Griffin native, who tied for ninth in the NFL with a career-high 111⁄2 sacks this season, had to sit out after suffering a season-ending injury when he tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the second half of the Seattle Seahawks’ 24-14 opening-round win the week before against the Washington Redskins.
To put this in perspective, the eventual game-winning drive Sunday in Atlanta could have been a lot more difficult had the ninth-year end been blitzing off the left corner and getting in Matt Ryan’s grille. After all, Clemons has led Seattle in sacks ever since arriving there three years ago — logging back-to-back seasons of 11 sacks in 2010 and 2011 before this year’s record number, which included a career day against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in a 14-12 win Sept. 24 on Monday Night Football nonetheless as he tied the franchise and NFL record with four sacks in the first half.
It broke his personal-best record of three sacks in a 24-7 week No. 11 win at St. Louis in 2011 where he also forced two fumbles and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
However, to get back to Sunday’s game, its should be noted the 6-foot-3, 254-pound end tied for the team lead in forced fumble (3) this season. So who knows what might have happend had he been lining up and taking his runs at Ryan.
Of course, none of that matters now.
Ryan and Atlanta advanced to the NFC Championship game 3 p.m., Sunday at the Georgia Dome against the San Francisco 49ers, while Clemons and Seattle are left to go home, think about what could have been and prepare for next season.
It’s a shame twice over for Clemons, who was supposed to be an alternate on the Pro Bowl squad this year.
Not only will he miss that opportunity after having to undergo surgery, but furthermore he will miss a another shot at becoming the 11th player from Griffin to play in the Super Bowl where he would join an elite list that includes: Morris Stroud (Chiefs in Super Bowl IV), Rayfield Wright (Cowboys in Super Bowls V, VI, X, XII and XIII), Willie Gault (Bears in Super Bowl XX), Freddie Gilbert (Broncos in Super Bowls XXI and XXII), Randy Fuller (Steelers in Super Bowl XXX and Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII), Ben Talley (Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII), Ben Talley (Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII), Jessie Tuggle (Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII) and Charlie Clemons (Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV) as well as Emmanuel McDaniel (Giants in Super Bowl XXXV).
While Clemons made it to the 2009 NFC title game during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, one has to wonder how many more chances Clemons, 31, will get at reaching the Super Bowl at this stage in his career.
For Clemons, the road to the top has been a long one. Originally signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2003 after his junior season at the University of Georgia, Clemons suffered a torn ACL and spent his first season on injured reserve.
Although he went to training camp with the Redskins in the summer of 2004, he was released prior to the start of the regular season and signed by the Cleveland Browns to their practice squad.
After a cup of coffee he was back with the Redskins where he spent the first part of the 2004 season on the practice squad. When he his first playing time later that season, he logged the first of his 531⁄2 carrier sacks when he took down Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Nov. 28 — four days after being moved to the active roster.
Clemons saw increased time, playing in 14 games and logging eight tackles and two sacks during 2005 before missing the 2006 season with injury. He signed a $455,000 one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders in 2007. There he had his breakout season as a pass-rush specialist, logging a then career-high eight sacks before becoming a free agent.
That led to an $18.5-million, five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles where he played the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the highlights being name NFC Defensive Player of the Week when he recovered a fumble and raced 73 yards for the decisive score in the playoff-clinching win during the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec, 28, 2008 while also tying a career high with two sacks and a forced fumble in the same game as well as the aforementioned NFC championship game which the Eagles lost 32-25 to the Arizona Cardinals.
Then came a trade to the Pete Carroll-coached Seattle Seahawks on March 16, 2010 when Clemons inked a three-year deal worth $22 million. Clemons' star continues to shine, getting brighter and brighter as he makes quarterbacks around the NFL pay the price for getting in his way on Sundays.
(John Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News.)