Colts Tight End Dallas Clark Ready to Put Last Year Behind Him
INDIANAPOLIS – There is still a whole lot to be attained.
When Dallas Clark, the Colts' tight end entering his eighth NFL season, thinks of next season – a season that will follow the best year of his NFL career to date – and any season after that, that's the context in which he considers it.
Yes, he made the Pro Bowl. Yes, he put up career numbers.
And yes, those numbers would have been career numbers for a lot of players at his position.
But Clark said there is still much on which to improve, and ways he can contribute more, and he said that's true whether or not he can improve statistically.
Because improving statistically?
Well, Clark said, that obviously will be difficult.
"It's kind of one of those things where I've never played a perfect game," Clark said recently during the Colts' organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities scheduled to conclude Friday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"Maybe some players – kickers – have played a game they consider perfect, but it's one of those things where there are so many things about the game, so many things that can go on, that there are always things you can improve on."
By any measure, Clark has improved drastically in recent seasons.
And by a statistical measure, that certainly was the case last season.
Clark, who caught 58 passes for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007, followed that with 77 receptions for 848 yards and six touchdowns. This past season, he caught 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, with the 100 receptions the second-highest single-season total for a tight end in NFL history.
The result was the most-decorated season of Clark's career, with the following honors:
• AFC Pro Bowl Team Starter.
• NFL Alumni Tight End-of-the-Year.
• The Sing News NFL All-Pro Team.
• Associated Press NFL All-Pro Team.
• Sports Illustrated All-NFL Team.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-NFL Team.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-AFC Team.
Clark said his approach this year is not to forget about last year, necessarily, but to put it behind him and treat the future as something separate.
"Just let last year be last year," Clark said. "Every year is a new year. There are new challenges. There are new things that happen, different things that happen. Last year is last year. Just clear the slate.
"That's what I've always tried to do, never think, 'Oh, I have to do that again.' I just have to do my job, get better each day in practice and just keep focused, give it everything I have and keep focused from there."
Clark said in that sense, he is taking a similar approach to his teammate and close friend, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, took two seasons ago. From 2001-2007, Wayne improved statistically each season, but after catching a career-high 104 passes in 2007, he said there was a very real chance he might not improve statistically.
But Wayne said he focused that season on the idea that there were ways to measure a receiver beyond statistics, and Clark said he's taking the same approach this season.
"That's exactly it," Clark said. "If I don't reach 100 catches, some people might say, 'Oh, he's down this year. He didn't have a good year.' That might be the case, but I could improve in run blocking. There are so many other things. There are things you can't calculate into statistics.
"There are so many things that are part of the game. Stats are good, and they're a way to compare, but as players it's more than numbers, really."
Clark said that's not significantly different from how he approached past seasons, and he said that's essentially how he will approach this season: with the same focus with which he has approached each season in his career to date.
"I'll do what I've been doing for the past seven years," he said. "I'll come to work and keep improving, don't become complacent and always try to improve on my weaknesses, give it my best and see what happens from there. I won't try to focus on last year or try to outdo what I did last year.
"There are always things to work on, there are always things where you think, 'Oh, I've got this down,' and all of a sudden one week it's not working. It's a constant battle of just never becoming complacent and always improving."
Clark said when he thinks of that concept, he recalls a saying by Colts assistant coach Tom Moore, one that he said will continue to be a motivating factor not only this year, but beyond:
"Don't become bored," Clark said. "Always try to push yourself. I think that's so important for an athlete to do, to always be improving and to be your biggest critic. If you have that kind of mindset, it's easy to come back after a good year, just like it's easy to come back after a bad year. Both instances, you just want to come back and keep playing and keep trying to do better than the year before.
"You want to clean the slate, come out focused, do your best and see what happens. Each year – bad year, good year – you always want to come back, have a fresh start and try to get better as a football player."