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Ryan Clark is one saucy intern.

Yesterday the Steelers safety started his ESPN “internship” or whatever, which is really just a prolonged Bristol car wash that serves as an audition for a second career. If his ambition is to say things that make people angry and they’ll then use the Internet to insult his family and goldfish, then mission accomplished. So…congrats?

Clark appeared on NFL Live yesterday, and knew what he was doing while poking the Patriot bear. First, he said this when asked about the Patriots losing Wes Welker, and looking to Danny Amendola as his replacement:

“I think what’s really underestimated is Wes Welker’s importance to not only the New England Patriots, but Tom Brady. A lot of what they do is timing. A lot of what they do is option reads, when you’re working inside against that nickelback or against those linebackers. Losing him is huge. I know they think Danny Amendola can come in and have the same type of numbers he had with the Rams, but we also have to remember, he’s fragile.”

So ummm, he’s right. About everything.

It’s nice that Amendola is younger than Welker, and his skillset as a slot and possession receiver is similar. But he is fragile, and that’s been a common concern since the moment his signing was even contemplated. Over the last two years Amendola has missed 20 games (!!!), and he’s been hobbled in others. Past injuries don’t necessarily lead to the certainty of future injuries, and the “injury prone” label is often tossed around far too liberally. Still, there’s reason to be worried about Amendola’s ability to last through a whole season, which is likely why the Patriots spent an early pick on a wide receiver (a second rounder on Aaron Dobson) while also signing Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones.

But Clark wasn’t done with the mic yet and his Patriots jabbing. Spit it again…

“When Tom Brady gets pressure and when you’re man-to-man and bumping those guys and making it hard for him to throw, he sees ghosts. Even when guys aren’t around him, even when he’s not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we’ll see him duck, we’ll see him flinch. When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots mystique goes away.”

If we weren’t already there, we’ve now crossed into the classic offseason dead zone territory when a comment like this explodes and leaves a rather wide crater. That’s always true with public barbs, and words that attempt to jab at one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The difference is that in the middle of October we’d yell about this for a few hours, and then go about the business of watching and caring about actual football. Now, it lingers.

But hey, that’s good for business around these parts. I gotta eat, so let’s continue.

Clark’s “ghosts” line is the one in every headline (why, just look above), and it’s based purely on his own observation. Fair enough then, but if we’re using our own personal biases to judge this, here’s mine: like most of you, I’ve watched a lot of Patriots football, and I’ve rarely seen a frantic and panicked Tom Brady.

He was sacked only 27 times this past season, which speaks to both the quality of his offensive line, and his own pocket instincts. Last year even without Darrelle Revis the Jets had the second best pass defense in the league, and Brady didn’t struggle with their coverage whatsoever (totals over two games: 582 passing yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions, sacked once).

Maybe he saw Casper in Week 15 against the 49ers when his passer rating dropped to a season low 68.9. But in that game he also passed for a season high 443 yards (including a 53 yarder), and a 31-3 comeback that featured four second-half touchdowns fell just short. Prior to that against the Broncos — who had the league’s third best secondary, and they were tied for first in sacks (52) — Brady was brought down four times. He responded with a meh while completing 74.2 percent of his passes.

If the fabled “Patriots mystique” fades it will indeed be because Amendola fails, or Rob Gronkowski can’t stay healthy while doing one too many pile drivers at the club. Tom Brady’s fear of the dead won’t be a factor.

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