INDIANAPOLIS — Mr. Versatility.
In the wake of injuries to wide receivers Brandon Stokley (ankle, knee, Achilles’ tendon) and Ricky Proehl (hamstring), that’s what tight end Dallas Clark has become to the Indianapolis Colts offense in the latter stages of the 2006 season.
Clark has also been a victim of the injury bug, missing four games with a sprained anterior cruicate ligament in his right knee that he had suffered in a Nov. 26 home game with the Philadelphia Eagles. But since his return in the Colts’ regular-season finale with Miami, the 6-foot-3, 252-pound Clark has become perhaps the biggest weapon in the team’s massive offensive arsenal.
As opposing teams attempt to double cover the team’s two outside wide receivers — Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne — Clark should be able to find openings over the middle and in the seam against the defensive pass coverage. That’s certainly the hope as the Colts head to Baltimore for an AFC divisional playoff game with the second-seeded Ravens.
“He kind of fills two spots for us,” Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said recently. “He is a tight end who can also lineup for us as a slot receiver. We’ve also used him as our H-Back. We can use him in a lot of ways in our offense.”
That was certainly the case in last week’s AFC wild-card win over Kansas City. With Stokley done for the year and Proehl hobbled for the past three weeks, Clark became the Colts’ go-to guy as he lined up in the slot and caught a career-best nine passes for 103 yards.
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning consistently went to the former University of Iowa standout to pick up big yardage in the second half of the Chiefs’ game. Six of his pass receptions resulted in first downs to keep offensive drives alive.
“It’s great to have Dallas back,” an appreciative Manning said earlier this week. “You always like to have some of your best players out there. When he got hurt against Philly, you heard rumors and whispers. They said it was an ACL [injury]. But I think it’s a real credit to him, though, for putting in the time, the extra time to rehab and get back.
“I think it was a real key for him to get back for that last regular-season game, so the playoffs game wasn’t his first game back. It’s a real credit to Dallas and his work ethic about wanting to be back here for his teammates. And certainly all of his teammates, especially me, have appreciated him coming back. He had a great game [against Kansas City] and he will be a big part of the game plan [for Saturday’s game] in Baltimore.”
After suffering what many thought was a season-ending injury against Philadelphia, Clark wasn’t sure how much he would be able to help his team in the postseason. Initial examinations of the knee were inconstant, at best. He ended up going down to Miami for a visit with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Uribe.
“I just wanted to have him take a look at it and give me a straight forward answer,” the Colts tight end said this week. “I wanted to know how bad [the knee] was and if there I chance that I could play again this year. After he looked at it, he said he thought that it wasn’t as serious as we all thought that it was and that there a good chance that I might be able to make it back [this season].”
The key, according to Clark, was the stability in the knee. If the stability was good and he didn’t stand a chance of risking further injury by trying to return to the playing field for the playoffs, then that’s what he would attempt to do. If there was a problem with the stability in the knee, then that was something else altogether.
“I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t stand a chance of making [the knee injury] worse than what it already was,” he said. “I know [the Colts coaching staff and athletic trainers] weren’t going to put me in that position. I knew that any decision on whether I could make it back this year would depend largely on me and what I wanted to do. [The Colts] didn’t want to have that to think and worry about, trying to send me back out to play before I was really capable of doing that. They didn’t want to see me try to go out there and re-injure the knee.”
And so the decision was made to try and make a rapid recovery and be back in time for the postseason. Thus far, two games back, everything has gone as planned. And with the Colts offense facing perhaps their stiffest test of the year this week when they match up against Baltimore’s top-ranked defensive unit, Clark’s ability to line up all over the field could very well turn out to be Indianapolis’ ace in the hole.
“Dallas will be critical because like so many of [the Ravens’] defensive players, he’s an interchangeable part too,” Dungy explained. “He can be a blocker, he can be an in-line blocker, [at the] point of attack. He can flank out and be an outside receiver. They [Baltimore] have some guys that do different things and we have to be aware of them. But, conversely, they have to be aware of the different things that he can do too.”
The fact that he has had to learn all the nuances of playing so many different positions hasn’t seemed to have slowed down or bothered Clark.
“It takes a little getting used to,” he readily admitted. “I never know from play-to-play, sometimes, where I’m going to be lining up. The plays are the same, for the most part, no matter where I am. It’s just a matter of being able to ready my [defensive] keys and knowing where I am supposed to be. And being able to know who to block on what play and what we’re going to be doing.
“But once you’ve done it a few times, it isn’t as difficult or hard as it may seem. By this point [in the season], you just line up and play. You’ve run all the different plays so often in practice and in games, it eventually becomes a pretty natural thing to just go out and line up where you’re supposed to.”
INDIANAPOLIS — Mr. Versatility.
- CNHI News Service Originals
Donnelly forges bonds, reaches across aisle
When Indiana’s freshman senator joined a small group of Senate centrists two weeks ago to quietly begin forging a plan to end the shutdown of the federal government and keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt, he was convinced it was what his Hoosier constituents wanted him to do.
- Colts will face Redskins in Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3 The Indianapolis Colts, as a group, are going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.
- Thanksgiving is a homecoming for Colts’ Mathis Robert Mathis is going home for Thanksgiving this week.
- Indy's true safety valve Ever since he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft, strong safety Bob Sanders has been an integral part of the team’s young defensive unit.
- Colts Camp: Simon still missing as Colts start practice The Indianapolis Colts went through their first two practices of training camp Monday, but veteran defensive tackle Corey Simon was no where to be seen. Simon’s status with the Colts for the upcoming season, which has been considered tenuous at best, remains an unanswered question.
Colts arrive ready to get down to business
Give Bill Polian plenty of credit. The Indianapolis Colts’ team president and general manager had said late last week that he was going to take all the time he needed in order to get the all nine of his draft picks signed.
- Welcome back champs: Indy begins its run for another Lombardi Trophy in Terre Haute Remember those guys who were hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Miami almost six months ago?
- Tanoos takes advantage of badge When Dan Tanoos rushed to the scene of a serious accident involving a school bus last week, he used red-and-blue police lights to help him get there more quickly.
- Bear's Notebook Monsters of the Midway don’t need motivational speeches.
- From the pressbox: From IU to the Super Bowl: Ogunleye appreciates trip Going into the 1999 season, then-Indiana University senior defensive end Adewale Ogunleye had the world at his feet.
- Dungy proud to honor Indy Most of the time, Tony Dungy is not an emotional man. But for a brief moment Friday, just prior to his final pre-Super Bowl XLI press conference, the Indianapolis Colts coach showed a side of his personality that few people get to see.
- Colts Notebook Back spasms limited the work schedule for defensive end Robert Mathis on Friday as the Indianapolis Colts wrapped up their final full practice prior to Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLI meeting with the Chicago Bears.
- Bears Notebook The last time the Indianapolis Colts faced a running back tandem as prolific as Chicago Bears runners Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, Jacksonville rushers Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor scampered for nearly four football fields worth of yardage on the Colts.
- Indianapolis keeps its composure during record comeback Coming back from an 18-point deficit against three-time Super Bowl champion New England to win an AFC championship Sunday night was old hat for the Indianapolis Colts.
- Indy’s line ready for next challenge It’s a safe bet that the Indianapolis Colts offensive line will be severely tested when the New England Patriots come to town for Sunday’s AFC championship game.
- Dungy already knows approach to take during practice Savor the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
- Dallas Clark may be the Colts biggest threat in a loaded offensive arsenal Mr. Versatility.
- Colts defense aims for repeat To put it mildly, the national sports media was stunned by the way the Indianapolis Colts defeated Kansas City in last weekend’s AFC wild-card game.
- Colts prepare for return to Baltimore On to Baltimore.
- Colts’ Sanders resting, ready to play Saturday It’s looking more and more like safety Bob Sanders will be in the starting lineup when the Indianapolis Colts face the Kansas City Chiefs in Saturday’s AFC wildcard game at the RCA Dome.
- Manning ready for familiar foes As Peyton Manning continues his videotape preparation this week for Saturday afternoon’s AFC wildcard game with the Kansas City Chiefs, two of the team’s veteran defensive players have grabbed his attention — cornerbacks Ty Law and Patrick Surtain.
- Dungy: 'We're still the same team' Tony Dungy is scratching his head right about now, trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with the Indianapolis Colts.
- Indy’s defense looks super The Indianapolis Colts knew that they would need a complete team performance if they were to register a win Monday night over the streaking Cincinnati Bengals.
- Donnelly forges bonds, reaches across aisle