INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Clark's value to the Indianapolis offense has been on display for the duration of his career.
The leading producer at his position in franchise history with 422 receptions for 4,834 yards and 46 touchdowns, Clark has been a mainstay in an annual potent attack.
The last two seasons have presented physical challenges to Clark, though. He missed 10 games in 2010 with a wrist injury, and he has missed five of the past six outings for Indianapolis.
Clark practiced during the week, and he hopes to be ready to go in the season finale this Sunday in Jacksonville. Clark's love for the game is evident, and he relishes any chance to compete.
"Why come back and play? Because you love playing the game," said Clark. "You can't play this game forever. If you're healthy, you take every advantage. It doesn't matter what the score is, doesn't matter what the season is. Of course, we'd all like it different, but the bottom line (is) you love to play the game. You try to end it (the season) on a positive note. It's your job."
Clark has started at least 12 outings in six of his nine seasons. He did not participate in the victories over Tennessee and Houston, but he wants to join his teammates this Sunday.
If he is able to do so, it will be with his full-steam-ahead professionalism. It is all he knows how to do, and a victory could put a better feel on a tough season. It is the type of season with which he is not familiar.
"It's all it is," said Clark on his professional approach to his sport. "At the beginning of the year we knew we had 16 games. No matter what happens, you have to come and bring your best every time. It's not written in stone that you're going to be good. We've kind of had it that way for a while. You kind of get comfortable with that.
"This is a good reminder of that it just doesn't happen (every year or on its own). You have to work at it. We've been working hard, but things haven't happened the way they have (in the past). It's unfortunate, but a lot of guys stuck together and continue to try to end this thing on a positive note."
Should Clark be able to play at Jacksonville, he will have a solid fan in starting quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
"I told him when we were in one-on-one's (drills on Thursday) it's an adjustment because he has a sneaky range to the football," said Orlovsky. "I threw a ball in one-on-one's and I said, 'I missed him,' and he got to it. I threw another one and said, 'I missed him again,' and he got to it. I told him it's an adjustment for me to feel that range of his and know he can go get some balls that I don't normally know if I would throw. (He's) a great player. Hopefully, he's back this week. It definitely would be a good addition."
Clark believes the type of season Indianapolis has endured will affect teammates positively.
"I think everyone has learned a lot," said Clark. "I think everyone has had different views, different things happen this year. Collectively, individually, it has been a trying year for everyone. I hope to think everyone's going to be better from it. Time will determine that. It hasn't been our typical year. It's frustrating. I think a lot of guys have grown from it."
Clark's previous eight seasons in Indianapolis yielded seven division titles among the numerous victories. He had been a playoff participant annually until this year and after playing at Iowa as well, it has been many years since he had a season like this.
"High school, we weren't very good," said Clark when asked the last time he had a tough season. "I don't know if that counts anymore, it's been so long ago. I just remember we were not very good. It didn't have (the attention). About 20 people in town only knew about it. It's a little bigger stage here, so it's kind of hard to compare the two.
"It's definitely been trying. It's something you're definitely going to use for motivation (and) everything like that. What we've been trying to do the last few weeks is try to focus to end it on some positive note. …It's just going out there and playing consistent. The guys have done a great job the last couple of weeks and are finding ways to win. We hope to continue that."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): Jim Caldwell(on whether it's strange knowing this is the final game after making playoffs before)*"When you say strange, it would be different if it was something that just happened all of a sudden. We've known for quite some time, so in that regard, no. In terms of typical, it is atypical, but we have to deal with reality. It is what it is. Our goal right now is to focus in on this last game, which is going to be hard, tough and difficult against a team that has got some firepower. Offensively, they have got a good running back that can run the ball extremely well. Defensively, they are playing really (well). When you look at the numbers they are a top 10 defense, and they have a good special teams unit. It is going to be a battle." Caldwell (on P-Pat McAfee) "I really do think that a 'weapon' would probably be the term to use. He has been a weapon in terms of how well he has punted the ball. He has been able to, I think, do a tremendous job of punting the ball, not only long, but also high. That helps our coverage units. He has done a good job in terms of placement with his punts. He had a couple of really key (punts) where he was able to get distance and also get the ball out of bounds when we are facing a returner that we want to try to limit the number of times that he handles the ball. In terms of his kickoffs, we've had very few returns, because he has put it out of the end zone. When you can anticipate that your defense is going to be able to start defending a team with 80 yards to go, then you are going to feel pretty good about your odds and the chances of getting that done. He's been able to do that consistently. Not only that, but he's tackled and made some big, big tackles for us during the course of the year. Some plays that got out on us, he has been able to bring them down, and he does a great job in that area. He holds (placekicks) extremely well. He does so many different things for us that he's an extremely valuable member of our team." Caldwell (on defensive performance of past few weeks) "They've been doing a better job of playing with a bit more cohesion. They've certainly been playing fast. Things are a bit simpler for them. They don't have to think about a whole lot. You let them sort of use their God-given ability to get to the ball. Speed and simplicity, I think are very, very important in terms of the way in which we play defense. They've been doing that very, very well here over the last few weeks. They've been tackling well, and I think that has helped us. We aren't perfect, but we've got a lot of guys playing with a lot of effort and enthusiasm." Caldwell (on the boost QB-Dan Orlovsky has provided) "I can tell you what he's done well for us. He's been a real steady force with certainly a lot of poise. He's done a good job just in terms of making certain that the offense is run smoothly, and he hasn't turned the ball over. Those are the things that are very, very important. And when he's had opportunities he's been able to certainly complete some passes in some tough situations that have given us an opportunity to make some big plays." Caldwell (on if he is concerned about getting the top draft pick) "Yeah, our job is to win football games. That's all we're concerned about, nothing more than that. We're just focusing in on trying to win this game. It's going to be hard, it's going to be tough. This team is playing well. Defensively they're as tough as they get and obviously with a little bit more, I should say emphasis on their running game which is already strong, I know they'll be trying to make certain that Maurice (Jones-Drew) has an opportunity to win that rushing title as well, so it's going to be a battle." Caldwell (on why Jaguars always have played Colts tough) "I think because they're a good, hard-nosed football team. They play us tough, they do a good job in terms of pass rushing, they do a good job in terms of stopping the run up front and they also do a good job in terms of just eating up a lot of clock running the football. They've done that well and their kicking game has been good and solid. So they do all those things well and those are the things that make for a very, very tough competition." Caldwell (on how the season has been for him personally) "Personal things don't really enter into my thinking or my focus. What's most important to me is the men who play for us, that's the most important thing. And it hasn't been easy on them but obviously they've also shown that they can be resilient. They've made a comeback and they're fighting and trying to end this season on a good note." Caldwell (on if he is pleased with results of using fullbacks in the offense) "We have made some adjustments in that area. We typically didn't carry a fullback very often and now we obviously have two on our roster and they've been able to help us. We've been using a little bit more two-back stuff of late, kind of mixing it in with some of the one-back stuff that we do. Both guys have done a nice job for us so they've helped us I think in the running game and that's one of the areas I think we've been fairly consistent, but we're trying to get better all the time." Caldwell (on deciding on if players with injuries will sit or play) "Every situation is just a little different. These guys, this is how they make their living. They want to play. The toughest thing is to keep them off the field. You're not trying to push them out there in situations where they may not be completely healthy, we're not going to do that. If the doctor clears them to go and they can go, they want to go. Then there would be certain individuals where there may be a borderline issue (with an injury). The doctors typically if he (a player) is borderline, they're going to rule against (him playing)." Caldwell (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "He's extremely tough, that's the thing that jumps out at you. He just keeps going. Obviously, he's leading the league in rushing right now for a reason. He's durable. He's tough. He's tenacious. All the skills that God has gifted him with in terms of his balance, power and speed, he can catch out of the backfield. He's a tough, tough competitor."Caldwell (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "It doesn't take him long to show up. He's got some ability, but he doesn't stay hidden very long. He comes out of that backfield. You had better know where he is. If you can't locate him, you'll be chasing him down the field from behind."Caldwell (on if team is approaching this as final game or next game) "Maybe from (others') point of view (it's the last game), but it's kind of one and the same for us at this point. It is the last game of the year, (there's) no question about that. Yet, also, it can be used as stepping stones and launch into the off-season and those kinds of things. There are a lot of different things you can talk about in terms of this ballgame. For us, it's the next one. What we're trying to do and we've been trying to do is get incrementally better, just a little bit better each and every week. I think our guys have been doing that. This one also will be a challenge to get just a little bit better this week. I think that's indeed the key (for us). We're going to face an opponent that's doing the exact, same thing. They're fighting and scratching and still playing tough, hard-nosed football."Dan Orlovsky (on two-week high) "It's been a fun ride. (I've been) very blessed to sit back and watch it unfold. I was having some long talks with my wife about (things). Her and I are very strong in our faith. We said it's funny to sit back after some difficult years of watching God's plan unfold, of me being cut in (Colts) camp. At the end of camp and getting home, thankfully finding a blood clot in my wife's pelvis during her pregnancy which, if I was not home, who knows if we would have been able to? Now, being able to win last week and being able to be home that one extra day (Monday) when we found out that we were going to have the kids. It's been a few-week ride that's been enjoyable to be on. I want to finish it the right way. It's important to me. I think it's important to these guys. We enjoyed the win last week, but it's over. We've moved on, just like if we had lost we would have moved on. It's been nice. Hopefully, we'll finish off the right way."Orlovsky (on if offense finding rhythm at season's end is good or frustrating) "I feel we've been playing good football for a month now. You try not to think about that (the season ending). We're here this week. We have a game on Sunday. It's our last scheduled game this season. We'll go out and prepare and play well. Sure, we would like to have more opportunities, but we had 12 or 13 before this, just like everyone else in this league. It's a big game for us on Sunday. We'll be ready to go. It will be a good test."Antoine Bethea (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "He has had a great year this year. He is a tough runner and we face him twice a year, so we know we are going to get a good dose of MJD (Maurice Jones-Drew). We just (have to) play ball, run to the ball, tackle and hit, (because) it is going to be a physical game. We will be all right."Bethea (on if it's strange knowing this is last game) "Yes, it's different. It's different this year. Normally around this time we're talking about sitting people, resting up, whatever. This year is different. I guess the other side of the coin. I haven't seen it before. There's one game left. We need to go out, play hard, play for 60 minutes and get that win."Bethea (on difference in defense recently) "I think we're out there having fun. I think sometimes early in the year we weren't out there having fun. We were always playing hard. You can't take that away from the guys. We were playing hard, but we weren't having fun the way we were in past years. The past two weeks, we've been having fun, playing with one another. Obviously, it turns into creating turnovers and playing some good ball."Bethea (on Defensive Coordinator Mike Murphy) "Murph, he's done a great job. With the input some of the players have given him, he's relating to that well. He's just doing a good job of putting us in situations where we don't have to do a lot of thinking. We're just out there playing football and flying around." *Bethea *(on how he will look back at this season) "Personally, I just learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the other side of the spectrum, being on winning teams my first five years then having this season. You just get a lot out of the season, not just football but what type of person you are when things aren't going your way. Things like that. There are things you can get in a football sense and outside of football how to approach things. I never took winning for granted. I most definitely won't do it now."Ryan Diem (on team not giving up in 2011) "That is one thing I love about this team is that we kept fighting. Thirteen losses and we are still coming to work ready to go every week, preparing and trying to get that monkey off of our back. A lot of teams probably could have given up, folded up the table and got out. It is just a testament to the kind of team that we have around here. (We have) guys that come to work every day ready to practice and ready to win." Fili Moala (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "It is all (of the) aspects that he brings to the game. He can hide behind the line, he is quick, he can jump out of a gap and run into another gap and he can cutback all the way across the field and take it for a 60-yard touchdown. It is just a combination of everything that you would want in the ideal back, and Maurice Jones-Drew is that back."Joseph Addai (on if there will be more offense in this Colts-Jaguars game than earlier in season) "You know what? Football is football. If it's a defensive game, it's defense. A lot of fans would like to see that (offensive fireworks). Me just playing ball, I know how the game can turn. Both teams have great defenses. It's kind of hard you playing against a great defense, the offense takes a step back. It's all about getting the 'W' and winning that game."Addai (on team's running game) "Obviously, we know it's a pass-first team. We know that every team has its own identity. Knowing that and understanding the situation we have to work with, slowly but surely we've become kind of more of a run team. We're trying to dial up more runs and get more yardage. Me being a running back, I love that. (You) really, really have to stay positive and keep your head up because every situation is totally different."Addai (on knowing this is the last game and it's not a playoff game) "As much as win games, you have to understand how it feels to lose and know how to take losses. Knowing it's the last game, it's hard, but we can focus on this one game. We don't have to worry about going to the playoffs and trying to (rest) people. We can go out and play hard. That's the upside on this situation. Hopefully, we go out there and get a win."Addai (on if this season will help players mature because it has been tough) "Any bad situation, not only football, when you go through a bad situation, it either makes you or breaks you. I think for the most part everybody still has been upbeat. That's a positive thing, going into this game and next season. We've stayed together like a family situation. Whenever a family has a bad situation, everybody gets close. That's what we've been doing. That's why we've won the last two games, and hopefully we win this one."Addai (on why no one is surprised in locker room because team did not give up) "No one inside is surprised. We still have that winning attitude. We go out there every day trying to win the game. It's never just playing the game. We want to win the game."Robert Mathis (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "I would say he is arguably the best back in the league. Because I have to see him twice a year every year, I am a little biased towards him. He brings his lunch pail to work every day, and he will make you pay."Mathis (on Sunday's approach) "We're going out fighting, scratching and trying to get this win. It's not going to come easy for them. We're coming out to play ball." Dwight Freeney (on feeling good about two recent wins) "Yeah, absolutely. Whenever you can win, sometimes people take for granted wins. We're accustomed to winning so many games here in Indianapolis. You have to really appreciate them, and the good thing is we have over the years. We understand how hard it is to win in this league and we don't take anyone lightly. This year obviously has been really rough, but those two wins felt good."Freeney (on what the turnaround was in last two games) "It's nothing really dramatically different than the weeks prior. Really it's just making an extra play here, an extra play there, one less mistake at critical moments. If you watch the games that we've lost, it's usually a play here or a play there that's a critical error that causes the landslide, whether it (is) a turnover on offense or a missed tackle or assignment (on defense). You can't win games like that. We've put some things together the last few games."Freeney (on how things were kept together at 0-13) "It's a mentality around here. First and foremost, we have a lot of pride in what we do. We go out every game, taking it as its own assignment. We don't look back on what we haven't done and how many losses or wins we have. We just really look forward and ahead and that's kind of been our formula for years, and that formula has helped us through this season. We're not worried about how many times we've lost. We're worried about just getting better week-in and week-out, and that is our mentality, that is what we try to do. This week coming up is going to be no different. I guess to answer your question, the way you turn it around, you don't worry about what has happened in the past. You just worry about what's ahead of you as in the moment."Freeney (on if Pro Bowl selections ever get old) "It never does (get old). It's a tremendous honor to be picked by your peers, by the fans. This is not something that is just for you either. It's for the city, for your teammates. You didn't get there by yourself."Freeney (on if he were surprised by Pro Bowl selection) "I'm surprised. I know I go out there and I perform, and I know what I can do. Regardless, I don't know who notices and who doesn't. I don't really pay much attention. Obviously, I know sometimes bad years (for a team), it goes bad all the way around, top to bottom. I'm very blessed to be in the situation I'm in and have the type of teammates I have and the coaching staff. (They) give me the ability to do what I do out there on a game-to-game basis."Freeney (on if he wants 2.5 sacks Sunday to reach 10 for season) "It would be nice. I've never been a 'number' guy, but double digits are always great. It's about how many opportunities you've had. When you look back on the seasons, you like to see double digits. There's something nice about that."Freeney (on if he takes offense if Colts fans want team to lose to get first pick) "I do, but I understand it from their perspective. They are looking at it just as, they want the first pick. I don't care what pick we get. I have never cared. I don't care if we have (any) first-round picks, I don't care. It is just me. I go out there. I play hard every day, and I let those who make those decisions worry about that. Those who play, we are worrying about playing and playing hard, and wherever the chips fall, they fall."Freeney (on RB-Maurice Jones-Drew) "Maurice (Jones-Drew) is a monster. To me, he is one of the best running backs, if not the best running back, in the league, because the thing is that he does it and everybody knows (the Jaguars) are going to run the ball. Everyone knows and he still is able to get as many yards as he does. He hits (the hole), and it's not a scheme thing. It's not like the Denver Broncos full-zone blocking (where) whoever you plug-in is going to get 1,000 yards, at least. Not with him. He is a guy where he is running guys over, he is finding the hole, he is cutting it back, he's doing this, he's doing that and they get him the ball on screens. The ball is in his hands 80 percent of the time, and he is making plays all over the field. Everybody knows it and still has a problem stopping him."Freeney *(on QB-Blaine Gabbert) "He is a young guy and he can move around with his feet a little bit, but the thing is that (the Jaguars) are Maurice (Jones-Drew). That is who they concentrate on and for the quarterback who is back there, he doesn't take too many chances. They don't allow him to do much. Whether he has the ability or not, I don't know, but a lot of his passes are going to be safe passes. They're going to check-down and they're going to be screen passes. 'Here Maurice, take the ball and you do what you have to do.' That is kind of how it is."