INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Clark is a veteran of many games for the Colts and Monday Night in Tampa Bay is the next one where he will pour out his efforts in trying to help the club get a victory.
It has been a difficult start to the season for the Colts, but 13 games remain to be played. Clark was a key figure in helping the team overcome a 3-4 start in 2008 when it won nine straight games to finish 12-4. He is one of the longest-tenured players, and he is poised to play a key role in the remaining games.
While no season truly measures against another, tough times do apply from past situations. The ability to react and know how to perform is something that is learned over the span of a career.
When Clark needs to show younger players where to turn, he casts his eyes toward his veteran teammates.
"We've got great men in this locker room," said Clark. "We've been in situations before, and we've been able to overcome them. I really think this is no different. I think we have great leadership, and we're definitely going to rely on that. That's where it has to start."
Clark was affected like all teammates by the loss of linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt to injuries. The pair of captains has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season. Clark knows the team will have to respond.
"It's two captains, our defensive and special teams captains, that's about as one-bad-thing-on-another (as it can get)," said Clark. "You wish them the best, and you hope they have a great recovery. As usual, 'Next Guy In,' and we have to step in and make plays."
Getting a victory in the NFL never is easy, but there is one approach to take. The team is schooled daily on fundamentals and techniques, and it is the attention to those matters that can make a difference on game days.
"It's focusing on the little things. The wins will happen," said Clark. "There are a lot of things that help you win, and we're falling short of a couple of those. That's where our focus as a team is, just doing the little things and the bigger picture will take care of itself. As long as we stay focused and use these days of practice to improve as a team, we'll be fine."
The team has struggled a bit this season to score in the first half games, something it would like to change on Monday. To Clark, that is very important.
"Starting fast, especially with this team (Tampa Bay), they play hard, the defense plays sideline-to-sideline," he said. "They're young and they play fast and up-tempo. They're going to come out fast and we've got to match that intensity, especially being on the road in a Monday Night game. It's going to be a great environment, so a fast start is definitely crucial for us."
On Friday, Head Coach Jim Caldwell named Curtis Painter as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay game. It means the club has gone from 13 years of Peyton Manning at quarterback to three games with Kerry Collins and now to Painter. Practices are used for timing and accuracy between the quarterback and his receivers and with the team having been exposed to Painter for two seasons, plus a heavy dose in training camp, Clark sees no issue with having a new quarterback under center at Tampa Bay.
"No (there is no issue), especially going back to (Curtis) Painter (last week), he's been here so we're used to him," said Clark. "It's not a big difference going from him to Kerry (Collins). Painter is like your little brother. You know what to expect. That's not going to be an issue."
Painter had a good drive to finish the game last week against Pittsburgh, leading the team 80 yards to a touchdown. Clark knows the moment was good but thinks it will have no carry-over affect for Monday's game.
"That was a good drive for our offense, just a good drive in general," said Clark. "It's not going to change anything for this week. It's a whole new week, a whole new game a whole new situation. That was a good opportunity for that week, but we have a new week and a new challenge ahead of us."
Clark has 10 receptions for 83 yards in the first three games, the third-most receptions on the team. When asked if the first few games were tough on him, Clark's team-first attitude revealed itself.
"I think through challenges you can prove a lot and learn a lot about yourself," said Clark. "I like the guys we have in here to face this challenge with. I think we'll overcome it and we'll improve.
You can't look at things personally when your team's 0-3. You have a little more leeway when you're 3-0…When you're 0-3, we just have to win games. It doesn't matter how we do it, who's getting the ball, or how many times or anything like that. We just have to move the ball. We have to score points as an offense. That's our job, and that's what we have to focus on."