Colts Players Honored to Be Named to a Game in Which They Prefer Not to Play
INDIANAPOLIS – His teammates, his quarterback particularly, couldn't have been happier for Colts tight end Dallas Clark.
As such, they congratulated him Wednesday.
He had, after all, made his first Pro Bowl the day before, and in a very real sense, it was a high point in a career of steady improvement, consistent production and big-time contribution. And at the same time, quarterback Peyton Manning said this much was true, too:
They hope Clark does not get to go the Pro Bowl.
And for that matter, they hope none of the six Colts players named to the AFC team Tuesday afternoon get to play in this year's game.
"We were congratulating Dallas and telling him exactly that," Manning said Wednesday afternoon, a day after he, Clark, center Jeff Saturday, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Robert Mathis and defensive end Dwight Freeney were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.
"We told him, 'Congratulations. We hope you don't get to play in it.''
That's because whereas the Pro Bowl in years past has been held in Honolulu, Hawaii, the weekend after the Super Bowl, this season the game is being held at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Sunday, January 31, at 7:30 p.m. That's a week before the Super Bowl, and as a result, players from Super Bowl participants won't play in the Pro Bowl.
Still, while Colts players may not want to play in the game, being named remained special.
"It never gets old," said Freeney, who made the game three consecutive seasons, 2003-2005, and again last season. "Every year is a different year and a lot of things happen in peoples' career. You can't ever take it for granted.
"It can be taken away from you like that. I've been hurt before. I didn't make it before. I know how that feels."
The six selections tie the second-most ever in the Indianapolis era. The Colts had six selections in 1987 and 2007, and eight players named in 2005.
"I'm really happy for all of the guys that made it," Manning said. "We had a couple of guys who we think hopefully are first alternates who hopefully have a chance to be named to the team, but I don't think any NFL player actually wants to participate in it, so that's kind of our goal."
Of the six Colts players named, five – Manning, Freeney, Mathis, Wayne and Clark – were named to the game as starters. For Mathis, it was his first time named as a starter after making it in a reserve role last season. Clark is the lone Colts player selected this season who had not played in the game previously.
"It's great when your team has the opunity to be well-represented on that team," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It shows we've had a lot of guys play extremely well. They have contributed to a lot of successful years around here."
Manning will be making his 10th appearance, with Freeney making his fifth appearance. Wayne and Saturday each will be making their fourth appearance and Mathis made it for the second time.
Manning was the leading vote-getter in the fan vote, while Clark was the sixth-leading vote-getter overall and first among tight ends. Wayne was the 10th-leading vote-getter overall, second among wide receivers. Freeney led the fan voting among defensive ends.
Clark has caught 93 passes for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The receptions and yards are career-highs, and the 10 touchdowns are one shy of his 2007 career-high.
"It's cool," Clark said. "I'm the type of guy that I think I'll enjoy it if for whatever reason I do play in it. I think I'll enjoy it, but it's one of those things that's slowly sinking in. You try to become immune to it. You try not to focus on it so much that it's here and you try to enjoy it now."
Wayne, who has had more than 1,000 yards receiving each of the last six seasons, made the game for a fourth consecutive season. He has 95 catches for 1,243 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, his third career season with 10 or more touchdown receptions.
He had game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown receptions against New England, San Francisco and Jacksonville.
Saturday, who made the game from 2005-07 after several seasons in which many around the Colts and the NFL believed he was worthy of going, made the game for a fourth time. He missed six games last season with injuries and has started 15 this season.
Mathis had 9.5 sacks this season before missing this past Sunday's game against the New York Jets. He also has a team-high 23 quarterback pressures and five forced fumbles.
Manning, a three-time Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player, was named to the game for the eighth consecutive year and for the 10th time overall. Manning made the game in 1999-2000 and from 2002 through this season. The 10 appearances tie the club quarterback mark set by Hall of Famer John Unitas. He has completed 379 passes for 553 yards and 33 touchdowns with 15 interceptions for a 101.0 passer rating.
"It's an honor, a humbling honor," Manning said.