ESPN First Take Stephen A. Smith, Ryan Clark, Bart Scott Screen grab: First Take

You know a debate on ESPN’s First Take is heated when Stephen A. Smith is the one playing mediator.

But that’s exactly what happened on Friday morning, as Bart Scott and Ryan Clark discussed what will likely be a season-ending ankle injury for Baltimore Ravens star tight end Mark Andrews.

“To me, this is a dirty tactic and a dirty style of tackling,” Scott said while discussing the tackle by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson that resulted in Andrews’ injury on Thursday night.

“Really?” Clark replied.

“Absolutely,” Scott, a former Ravens linebacker, responded. “When you grab from the back and jump, there’s nowhere for you to land but on their leg as they’re falling forward. They outlawed this from [former safety] Roy Williams. And the competition committee, this is going to be exhibit one.”

As Scott was speaking, Clark could be seen with his face buried in his hands in apparent disbelief.

“I’m not going to interrupt because the audience needs to hear from you two because y’all played. I didn’t,” Smith said, while interrupting. “I’m not flowing with that at all, Bart. I don’t see it.”

“Come on, Bart,” Clark began.

After Scott interrupted by repeating his belief that Wilson’s tackle was similar to the horse collar tackle, which was made famous by Williams and outlawed by the NFL in 2005, an exasperated Clark unloaded.

“How do you get people on the ground then, Bart?” the former Pittsburgh Steelers safety asked rhetorically. “If I’m chasing a guy, is my only chance to grab his waist and run with him down the field?”

“You run your feet, R.C.,” Scott replied.

“Bart, you can’t run your feet when he’s running away from you,” Clark retorted. “He’s running away from you. And so if I continue to run my feet and I continue to run with him, either I’ve got to hope that I’m fast enough to push him forward and he topples forward or he just keeps running.”

“OK, maybe this wasn’t intentional,” Scott began.

“It’s not intentional,” Clark interjected, before Scott repeated his belief that Wilson’s tackle should be examined by the NFL’s competition committee.

Much like Smith, I don’t feel qualified to say who’s right or wrong in an argument between two ex-NFL defenders regarding tackling, although Clark seemed to do a better job of expressing conviction in his opinion. While the outcome of the tackle was certainly unfortunate, to Clark’s point, football is a violent game and defenders only have so many options when it comes to bringing a ball-carrier down.

Conversely, it was somewhat curious — and dare I say, refreshing — to hear a former linebacker like Scott not blindly side with the defender, although his affiliation with the Ravens is worth noting here. Either way, this is exactly the type of argument where shows like First Take should rely on the expertise of their former players, and Smith (mostly) did a good job of staying out of the way.

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About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.