Colts TE-Dallas Clark Headed to First Pro Bowl
INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Clark long ago stopped worrying about post-season awards.
Even if he had worried, he needn't anymore, because on Tuesday, the Colts' seven-year veteran tight end received one of the NFL's biggest honors of all.
Clark, a first-round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft who has been a critical part of one of the NFL's premier offense for the last half decade, not only was named to his first Pro Bowl, he was named to the AFC's team as a starter.
"I don't even know when it's announced," Clark said last week. "Whatever happens, happens. I've had a couple of years where it would have been nice to go and I'd maybe made a case to go, but it's a tough thing to sell with so many great talents in the league at tight end.
"I've learned, and it's not my focus anymore. There are a lot of guys in the league who deserve to go and don't. It doesn't take away from the honor, but it's not like a player has a disappointing year if he doesn't go.
"There are one or two players on each team who have great years and deserve to go and it doesn't work out."
Clark, who is in the midst of one of the biggest statistical seasons for a tight end in NFL history, was among six Colts players named to the game, with the others being quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end Dwight Freeney, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Robert Mathis and center Jeff Saturday. All but Saturday earned starting honors.
Manning was the leading vote-getter in the fan vote, while Clark was the sixth-leading vote-getter overall and first among tight ends.
Wayne was the 10th-leading vote-getter overall, second among wide receivers.
Freeney led the fan voting among defensive ends.
Clark, who has caught 349 passes for 4,136 yards and 41 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons, has 93 passes for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The receptions and yards are career-highs, and the 10 touchdowns are one shy of his 2007 career-high.
He caught 58 passes for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007, then followed that with a 77-reception, 848-yard, six-touchdown season last season. This season, he is nine receptions short of the NFL record for single-season receptions by a tight end, a record set by Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004.
Gonzalez made the last 10 Pro Bowls with the Chiefs and Antonio Gates of San Diego made the last five, but Clark this season had the biggest statistical season among tight ends, with Gonzalez catching 80 passes for 837 yards and six touchdowns with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFC.
"It's been a great year, I think he's well-deserved," Caldwell said of Clark Monday. "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."
Manning, a three-time Associated Press National Football League Most Valuable Player, was named to the game for the eighth consecutive year and for the 10th time overall. Manning made the game in 1999-2000 and from 2002 through this season. The 10 nominations tied the club QB mark of Hall-of-Famer John Unitas. His eight consecutive Pro Bowl bids tie the club marks of Unitas, OG/T-Jim Parker and WR-Marvin Harrison. He has completed 379 passes for 553 yards and 33 touchdowns with 15 interceptions for a 101.0 passer rating.
Freeney, who has 13.5 sacks this season, made the game from 2003-05, and made it this season for a second consecutive season and fifth overall. He has 20 pressures and pass defensed and a forced fumble this season, and he also had a sack in each of the season's first eight games. Dating to last season, he had a sack in nine consecutive games, one shy of the NFL record.
Freeney's 13.5 sacks this season rank as the second-highest total in franchise history. He had a franchise-record 16 sacks in 2004 and 13 as a rookie in 2002.
Wayne, who has had more than 1,000 yards each of the last six seasons, made the game for a fourth consecutive season. He has 95 catches for 1,243 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, his third career season with 10 or more touchdown receptions.
He had game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown receptions against New England, San Francisco and Jacksonville.
Saturday, who made the game from 2005-07, after several seasons in which many around the Colts and the NFL believed he was worthy of going, made the game for a fourth time. He missed six games last season with injuries and has started 15 this season. Saturday has anchored a line that has surrendered only 12 sacks in 578 pass attempts, and the club's passing offense leads the league in yards per game. The offense has produced its 12th consecutive season with 5,000 total net yards.
Mathis, who made the game for the first time last season, had 9.5 sacks this season before missing this past Sunday's game against the New York Jets. He also has a team-high 23 quarterback pressures and five forced fumbles.
The club's six selections tie the second-most ever in the club's Indianapolis era. The Colts had six selections in 1987 and 2007, while the team had eight nominees in 2005.