Continued Steady Improvement Nets Dallas Clark First Pro Bowl Season
INDIANAPOLIS – To Dallas Clark, patience always has been the thing.
When you play tight end in the Colts' offense, and when you play with the players with whom he has played in seven NFL seasons, there isn't much choice.
Clark, a first-round selection by the Colts in the 2003 NFL Draft, has played with Pro Bowl skill players such as Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai since his 2003 arrival. With that group, he said the reality long was that you wouldn't get as many opunities as you might like.
So, he waited. And he worked. Along the way he improved.
And this season, his patience reaped benefits.
Clark, who in recent seasons had been one of the NFL's best players not named to the Pro Bowl, this past season not only was named to that game, he made the game with the most productive season of a productive career – and one of the best seasons by a tight end in NFL history.
That's not only benefits being reaped.
It's big-time benefits.
"It's just one of those things that you know that's kind of the way this game is," said Clark, for the past several seasons the Colts' top player at the tight position, the focus of this entry in an on-going position-by-position look at the Colts' roster on Colts.com.
"That's the way football is. We don't really get to choose when the ball is thrown to us and all that stuff, or when we're going to be open and all that. It's one of those things that you just realize, sooner or later it's going to be your day."
This past season, it was Clark's day a lot more than it had been in the past.
Clark, who caught 58 passes for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007, followed that with 77 receptions for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Yet, he was not named to the Pro Bowl in either season.
This past season, he left no doubt, catching 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 Sporting News NFL All-Pro Team.
• Associated Press NFL All-Pro Team.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-NFL Team.
• PFW/PFWA NFL All-AFC Team.
"I think he's well-deserved," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said of Clark late in the season. "He's had some tough competition over the years. There have been some guys at the position that have played really well. I think this year when you look at Dallas and his body of work, he's certainly deserving."
Clark, while honored to be named to the Pro Bowl, said while had let being overlooked bother him at times in previous seasons he was beyond worrying about such things by this season. What he said concerned him was remaining a vital, productive part of one of the NFL's premier offenses.
"All I can control is each week and trying to get better," Clark said.
In the Colts' offense, measuring such progress isn't always done by counting catches, yards or touchdowns. The unit is effective in part because of quarterback Peyton Manning's ability to utilize a variety of players offensively depending on defenses, coverage and situations.
This season, while Clark caught 100 passes, wide receiver Reggie Wayne did as well, with receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie combining for 107 receptions. And even during a Pro Bowl season, Clark said that meant patience was necessary.
"You've just got to understand that if you're not getting the ball thrown to you, you're still in some way helping everyone else get open or having an effect in the system," Clark said. "You don't want to get too in the tank about it, and you don't want to be moping around. It's just one of those things, it just happens. Sure it'd be fun to just go out and catch 7-8 balls every day, but that's not real and you've got to understand that, and I think you do after a certain amount of time. Especially for me, I enjoy where I'm at now.
"My first two years, when I would get two catches, I would be thrilled, so everything else is gravy. We're all professionals and we all kind of understand. At the end of the day as long as you're winning that's all that really matters. If you're losing, then it'd be a little harder. You want to help the team win and you want to be involved. Really, I think that you have a good understanding that it's not a bad thing."
And while Clark is more known in NFL circles for his production in the passing offense, Caldwell said he is underrated as a blocker.
"He has made a number of big plays for us in the passing game, and oftentimes people would think that's the only thing he does," Caldwell said. "But the fact is he's a very capable blocker."
Gijon Robinson, a third-year veteran, started at H-back for a second consecutive season, catching nine passes for 62 yards, and for a second consecutive season, Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi – fourth- and sixth-round selections, respectively, in the 2008 NFL Draft – also played a role at the spot.
Santi, after starting the season on the practice squad, played in three games and caught eight passes for 107 yards before finishing the season on injured reserve with a back injury. Tamme developed into one of the Colts' top special teams players, catching three passes for 35 yards and making 13 special teams tackles.
Colin Cloherty, who signed with the Colts shortly after the 2009 NFL Draft, finished the season on the active roster. He caught a pass in the regular-season finale against Buffalo, his first NFL appearance.
Note: The 2010 Colts.com position-by-position series is meant to serve as an overview of the Colts' roster as it stands entering the 2010 offseason and to provide a detailed look at how the position groups fared during the 2009 season. It is not meant to reflect the opinion of Colts' management.