EXCITED CLARK BACK

ANDERSON – Dallas Clark may be a one-man pep rally. Clark is a ninth-year pro who has made his mark on the field as one of the game’s finest players.

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He has made a reputation off the field with his enthusiasm and honest upbeat nature.  It is very noticeable to others at training camp at Anderson University.

            Asked on the camp's opening day how he thought Clark was about returning, Head Coach Jim Caldwell was ready with an appropriate response.

"Dallas (Clark) is an unusual guy.  He loves football," said Caldwell, an Iowa Hawkeye just like Clark.  "I'm not certain that you will find anyone, any more infatuated with the game then he is.  He exudes it.  He walks out on the field, he has a great time, he loves practice and does a tremendous job, it's infectious."

            Cornerback Jerraud Powers is a buttoned-down personality not given to exaggeration.  He offered his opinion, too.

"You'll see Dallas running around going, 'Good morning,' and having a great time," said Powers.

            It is that natural personality that draws people to Clark in the same way that it is his on-field talents that help the ball come his way on a regular basis.

            After playing 10 games in his 2003 rookie season, Clark appeared in no fewer than 12 outings in any season through 2009.  The 2010 season was much, much different.

            Clark was helping the Colts close out an October victory at Washington when he suffered a wrist injury.  The injury was serious and delicate enough that he would miss the rest of the season.  The year was over for him in one play.  To that point, he had 34 receptions for 347 yards and three scores – numbers that continued to show his vital role in the offense.

            After surgery and weeks of rehabilitation, Clark is back plying his trade.  His attitude is just the same as always, and his exuberance is that of someone who is doing what he loves while having no trouble doing it.

            "It feels great.  I have not felt it, which I'm trying not to jinx myself or think about it too much," said Clark.  "I'm just seriously trying to take it day-by-day and just kind of cross whatever bridge that comes – however it feels, whatever attention it needs, more therapy, more post-workout treatments and things like that.  It feels great, so I'm really excited."

            His return to the field is a welcomed sight for Colts fans.  His practice gear has one addition, a splint for his wrist.  The splint should be visible for a while, per the team doctor.

            "He wants me to wear that all year.  At first I was pretty not excited about it, but I've gone out to practice here and been able to catch and block and pass pro(tect) and do everything I need to do," said Clark.  "A ball I dropped, I took my eye off it.  It wasn't the brace or anything like that, so that's exciting.  It's not inhibiting (me) from doing what I need to do.  It looks stupid but other than that it does its job.  It gives me just a little bit more protection.  I'll probably wear it all year.  We'll see what happens, we'll take it week-by-week.

            "They say it's a year recovery, so it's October, (and) we have a few months before that.  They're probably just taking it day-by-day going off what I feel.  I seriously have not felt it.  It hasn't given me any reason to idle back on practice.  It's just great.  It's exciting and they're really excited about it as well.  So far, so good."

            So far, so good is great news to Clark's fans.  He wants to reward those fans and his teammates by playing in the preseason opener on Saturday in St. Louis.  When asked if he is looking forward to play, Clark was, well…..Clark.    

            "Gosh, yeah, yeah.  I don't know, I actually might be nervous, it's been so long," he kidded.  "I will be excited to get out there.  I know it's only preseason, so you have to keep the excitement at a minimum.  It's hard to get excited for a couple of series, but I will enjoy the heck out of those."

            A return to action is the proper medicine for Clark.  He described in one word what it was like watching his teammates over the final 10 games and a playoff game last year.

            "Miserable.  I can't even explain it," he said.  "It's the toughest part about this sport, I feel.  Dealing with injuries, dealing with you're out there giving everything you've got to help your team, then one play you're done for the year.  It's tough, but it happens.  It's part of the game.  It's not a shocker or anything like that, but it doesn't make it easier.  It's something you go through, you experience and I think you either get better from it, or you let it eat at you and kind of break you down mentally.  It's tough, but it's great to see the team go out there and play well and make the playoffs and give a great run with all the injuries that they had."

            The adage, 'Football players play football,' pertains to Clark, and his words underscore Caldwell's description of his infatuation for the sport.  That infatuation came through when Clark was asked if he were a fan of preseason games.

            "Yeah, I am.  I enjoy that we get to go out and get our work done.  I also like to see these young guys get out there and get their chance.  You love to see that underdog," he said.
"You love to see that player that's undrafted and at the end of the preseason he's on the team.  You love that aspect of it.  You love seeing guys just fighting, giving everything they've got to fulfill their dream and to make this team better and help this team out.  I like that aspect of it.

            "Every year there's always one or two, it just depends.  Every year there's at least one (young player who makes it) where you feel just a little extra special, a little more happy for those guys.  To see them fight that hard and to get rewarded like that it's great to see.  It's not easy to make the team.  It gets tougher and tougher.  It means a lot when you get to make an NFL team."

            Like other teammates, Clark has a rooting interest in this week's game in quarterback Curtis Painter.  Numerous teammates have lauded Painter for his play this year, and Clark is among those looking forward to Saturday for Painter's chance to play with the first unit.

            "You always go out there and try to play your best.  With Curtis, with a new quarterback, a guy who has taken some snaps but hasn't (had) great experience you want to make plays," he said.  "He's done so well.  He's improved so much this week, just in the last three or four days in camp.  His game just keeps getting better and better.  You want to go out there and help him out and make him as comfortable as possible and know that he can count on us to make plays for you.  That's what he's been doing all week, and he's gotten a lot more comfortable running the whole offense."

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