INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Clark has piled up some tremendous numbers during his Colts career.
Clark's 413 receptions and 46 touchdowns are club records at his position, while his 4,724 yards rank second in Colts history behind Hall-of-Famer John Mackey (5,126). He owns the seasonal club marks in all three categories and in 2009 became only the second NFL tight end to have 100 seasonal receptions.
Numbers can be massaged to influence any opinion, but those stated above contributed to one statistic whose importance cannot be disputed – victory.
Clark has toiled throughout his career and contributed in mighty ways for the Colts offense. The results of his work have helped benefit many teammates as well as himself. He is among the 40 current players on the active roster who never have completed a losing season in the NFL.
The club's current record is in contrast with the seasons he has helped build prior to now. Clark has been a relentlessly positive professional throughout his previous eight seasons, and he is doing so now in reacting to a different career scenario.
"You look at it where we're all professionals. You sign up for 16 games. You hope you get some more (games in the playoffs)," said Clark. "You're never guaranteed anything in this league. It's such a (tough league). You watch all the games, it's a play here, a play there, a missed (assignment), it's whatever. We've been very fortunate to be on the other side of things for quite some time around here. We didn't just show up and knew that (a winning season) was going to happen. It was just how it unfolded. This year's no different. You never knew what kind of year it was going to be, obviously with injuries and things like that.
"You just stay positive. You have to improve as a player each week, just like you would if you were leading the division. That mindset has to stay constant through this whole thing. It is very hard, but it's what we have to do. It's what we're here for, and you have to make a difference."
Clark is one of the more tenured veterans in the locker room, and he is a player whom teammates respect and value. Clark acknowledges the season has been difficult for the team and while overcoming this is not easy, he believes it is possible to find success in the remaining games.
"Obviously, getting a win would definitely help, but I think it's just testing everyone," said Clark. "I think it's testing everyone's character in this room and in this building, and I think we've got great guys. I think we'll definitely overcome it, but it doesn't make it any easier or anything like that. I think the collective morale is still positive. I think we truly understand that it's just little things here or there from preventing us from being where we want to be. We just have to take it upon ourselves to correct those."
Clark's career has seen many more highs than lows, but he is experienced at both. He is challenged as well with his 52 teammates, and Clark has a definite approach to take.
"It's (being tested like his teammates) the same thing," said Clark. "It's just collectively trying to improve and help everyone else around to stay positive, be a leader and go about your business each day as if you were undefeated or winless. It doesn't change."
Seasoned professionals like Clark are not immune to the ebbs and flows of the sport, and keeping a calm presence and dedicated ethic are key to dealing with rough spots.
Clark endured such a rough spot in New Orleans last week when he did not have a reception in the loss to the Saints. He was used more in protection schemes than in pass routes, and his streak of 70 games with a reception ended. He understood the nature of what the club was facing against the Saints and with how the offense was going to be re-worked this year with the absence of Peyton Manning.
"With all their (New Orleans) stuff, all their crazy schemes and things like that, it's definitely kind of protection first, cover both sides – the strong and weak side – and let a couple of guys out and try to beat them that way," said Clark. "That was kind of our (plan) until you got a feel for what the game was. Then, obviously, the way the game went, you didn't adjust too much. That was definitely something that we wanted to try to do. That's how they make plays, with pressure and blitzing and things like that. It was the kind of thing we knew going in. It was going to be that type of day with all the stuff they bring. They bring a safety from 15 yards deep, and you have to have a guy in there (protection) for stuff like that. There's a lot of times you're blocking in there anyway and you just sneak out and help out on a little dump pass. They did a good job blitzing us.
"We learned this (in) week two, kind of where this was all going and what our personality as an offense was going to be. Definitely (we were going to) move forward more running the ball and setting up the pass and things like that. That's been something we kind of knew from the get-go with (Curtis) Painter and kind of helping him out and not putting everything on his shoulders (and) say, 'Go win us a game.' (We're) trying use everyone else. I think that's something we will continue to do."
Clark will go about his business in whatever role asked of him, and he will do it at his usual 100 percent clip.
"You'd like to be used to help (in the passing game) but if it means blocking, you have to bust your butt blocking," said Clark. "Give it everything you've got. Everyone's role has changed a little bit this season. … It's kind of adjusting along the way."
With nine opportunities left, Clark will keep his approach, and that of his teammates, of taking each game as an individual entity. The last seven games do not matter, and only one of the remaining nine does. He can speak from being 7-0 and having to forget past games, and he will maintain that mindset of keeping a blank mental chalkboard weekly about the club's record.
"You're always cleaning the slate, win or loss, and this is no different," said Clark. "You've just got to learn from it, move on and get ready for the next great challenge with Tennessee. It's going to be a great, hard-fought battle, so we're looking forward to the challenge."